Hennie Kriel praises SA 4x400m relay team for Olympic qualification

Hennie Kriel praises SA 4x400m relay team for Olympic qualification

Renowned South African sprint coach Hennie Kriel has praised the men’s 4x400m relay team following their qualification for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

The team, consisting of 400m world record-holder Wayde Van Niekerk, Lythe Pillay, Zakhithi Nene, and Gardeo Isaacs, earned their Olympic berth through securing automatic qualifying spots at the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas on Saturday night.

In an interview with SABC Sport, Kriel praised the efforts of the quartet, who he believes have all the qualities to clinch a medal in the final event taking place on Sunday evening.

"The 4x400m is much stronger, and we have plenty of athletes who run a sub-44, making it a world-class team. I am not surprised by their achievement at all; they deserve their place in the Olympic Games," said Kriel. 

"Wayde, Zakhithi, and Lythe have already qualified for the Olympic Games in their 400m individual event, and the young athlete Isaacs has a bright future. 

"I think they have the potential to win a medal. However, the biggest objective has already been achieved, and they can now start preparing for the Olympics. 

"The experience and talent are there; they need a few camps to polish here and there."

The team achieved a season's best of 2:59.76, finishing just behind narrow winners Botswana, who crossed the line in 2.59.73 in a closely contested affair.

With their qualification, the South African team advances to Sunday’s final, where they will vie for a podium finish against top competitors from Botswana, Belgium, Japan, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the men's 4x100m relay team, consisting of Akani Simbine, Bayanda Walaza, Clarence Munyai, and Benjamin Richardson, missed out on the two automatic qualifying spots, finishing third in a time of 38.83, behind Japan and China.

Despite the setback, hope remains for the team to still secure qualification, but they must finish in the top two in their Olympic qualification heats on Sunday evening to secure their spot in Paris.

“The 4x100m has fast athletes, but you should compensate for the weakest link in the relay competition. The changeover must be quick and the baton exchange needs to be smooth," Kriel added.

"The team can make a mistake but must improve in their next race. I believe they can still qualify."

Similarly, the 4x400m mixed relay team, consisting of Zeney Geldenhuys, Tumisang Shezi, Antonie Nortje, and Shirley Nekhubui, also finished in third place in a time of 3:15.95, trailing the USA and Nigeria.

To secure their place in Paris, they must place in the top two in their Olympic qualifying heats on Sunday night.

READ: Last chance for SA relay teams to secure Olympic qualification