The 18-year-old Clarence Munyai and 17-year-old Gift Leotlela might get the opportunity to race in Europe in June as part of their preparation for the World Championships in Poland. It won’t be a surprise if they outsprint some of the more experienced international athletes. The learners of the TuksSport High School certainly managed to set the track “ablaze” with the times they have been running over the last 16 days.
Munyai who will compete in the 100 metres at a senior meeting tomorrow in Sasolburg is undoubtedly the ‘find’ of the season. He won the SA Junior 200m title in a time of 20.36 seconds. In the semi-final his time was 20.33s, but the wind from behind was too strong for the time to be officially recognised.
In March he won in a time of 20.39s. All of this means he has already twice qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio. Athletes need to run a time of 20.50s to do so.
Munayi’s best time of 20.36s puts him fourth on the IAAF’s list for fastest times in 2016. Akani Simbine (Tuks/HPC), with a time of 20.29s, is the only South African athlete who so far has run a faster time. Obviously this will change when the outdoor season starts in all earnest, but it must certainly be encouraging for Munyai to know that, at least for the moment, he counts as one of the top sprinters in the world.
The big question is whether the youngster will get an opportunity to go to the Games in Rio, maybe as a member of the 4x100m relay squad. His best time over 100 metres is 10.36s. In all probability it will not happen because the decision makers will argue that he is too young which would be a pity as the experience Munyai might gain at the Games could prove to be invaluable when it comes to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Should Munayi be selected to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games in Rio, he will have the full support of his Tuks/HPC coach, Hennie Kriel believes that there is no such thing as being too young when it comes to sport. Kriel says: ‘Therefore I would certainly not advise Clarence, if he should be selected for the Olympic Games, not to go as it will be such a great opportunity. I think it is important for young athletes like Clarence and Gift to get used to competing against senior athletes to gain experience. That is why there are plans to get them to race in Europe. As a coach I can teach an athlete to get off to a good start and I can help him with some of the finer sprinting techniques, but an athlete can only learn how to handle a race by actually competing. Both Clarence and Gift will learn much quicker if they get the opportunity to race against stronger and more experienced athletes.’ Leotlela has also been unbelievably consistent over the past two weeks.
He won the SA Junior 100 metre title in 10.21s and in the semi-final his time was also 10.21s. Before the national championships he ran a time of 10.24s. According to the IAAF-list for the fastest times in the 100 metres only Simbine 9.96s, Wayde Van Niekerk 9.98s and Retshidisitswe Mlenga have so far managed to run faster times.
Munyai will compete at the 200 metres at the South African Senior Championships in Stellenbosch next weekend. Leotlela will take part in the 100 metres. It will not be a surprise if both of them should qualify for their respective finals. With a little bit of luck they might even medal.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott