After winning the 100 metres at the Gauteng North Championships in 10.01 seconds yesterday, Akani Simbine (Tuks/HPC) said jokingly that local athletics fans are being spoiled. He was referring to the fact that his performance was totally overshadowed by Wayde Van Niekerk’s awesome 9.98s run in Bloemfontein. It was the second time in four days that a South African sprinter has managed to dip under 10 seconds in the short sprint.
Simbine set a new South African record on Tuesday when he won in 9.96s at the ASA Night Series. Van Niekerk was only the fourth local sprinter to break through the ‘magical’ 10 second barrier. The others were Simon Magakwe (9.98s), Simbine (9.96s) and Henricho Bruintjies (9.97s).
It is ironic that, exactly a year ago at the Gauteng North Championships, there would have been a big hoo-ha about Simbine running a time of 10.01s. At that stage Magakwe was the only local sprinter to go under 10 seconds, but in July last year the proverbial ‘dam wall’ broke. In a matter of just eight days Simbine and Bruintjies managed to run times faster than 10 seconds in three races.
Simbine started the sprint revolution by winning in a time of 9.99s in Velenje. Barely four days later Bruintjies ran 9.97s in La Chaux-de-Fonds and then Simbine won the 100 metres at the World Student Games in Gwangju, South Korea, in a time of 9.97. There can be no doubt that Simbine will be clocking sub ten-second times regularly throughout the season.
Considering that he was running his sixth race in just four days, his time of 10.01s was quite amazing. As mentioned on Tuesday, he set a new South African record. On Friday he ran an Olympic qualifying time in the 200 metre semi-final.
His winning time of 20.29s was merely 0.06s slower than his best time of 20.23s. Unfortunately for Simbine the 200m final had to be postponed on Friday night because of heavy rain. According to Simbine he might have been able to dip under 20 seconds if the weather allowed the race to take place. The Tuks/HPC athlete admits to being surprised by the times he has been running: ‘I don’t know why I am able to run the times I have been running so early in the season. Hopefully this is just the beginning of something great. We have not even started to work on all the phases which are needed to run the perfect 100 metres. The only aspects Werner Prinsloo (coach) and I have been seriously working on are my start and my acceleration coming out of the starting blocks. Everything else is still a work in progress.’
Asked whether he was surprised about Van Niekerk’s time he says: ‘No, I think we all knew that it was just a matter of time before Wayde would dip under 10 seconds. He is a phenomenal athlete.’ With South Africa boasting with three sprinters running times of less than 10 seconds, local fans can be forgiven for thinking that we will have a realistic chance to medal in the 4×100-relay at the Olympic Games. Simbine agrees, but he is not sure whether Van Niekerk will be able to compete in the relay, because his main commitment at the Games will be to run the 200 metres and 400 metres.
Simbine says: ‘Having Wayde run the relay would be a huge advantage to us.’
Photo: Reg Caldecott