When Akani Simbine lines up for the 100 metres at the Diamond League Meeting in New York on Saturday, he will be in for another tough race. Of the eight athletes who will be contesting the short sprint, only Simbine and Diondre Batson (USA) have not yet won a medal at the Olympic Games or the World Championships. They will also be the only two athletes who have not yet managed to break through the 10-second barrier.
Tyson Gay (USA), whose best time of 9.69s is the second fastest ever over 100 metres, will certainly be the favourite. Gay won three gold medals at the World Championships, as well as a silver medal at the Olympic Games. Nesta Carter (Jamaica), who is sixth on the IAAF all-time list with a time of 9.78s, will be the other “big name” in the race.
Carter can boast with two Olympic gold medals and two World Championships gold medals. However, Simbine(Tuks/HPC) is not intimidated by Gay and Carter’s reputations. He firmly believes that he can control only himself and the way he himself runs.
He says: ‘Getting worked up about what other athletes might do is a futile exercise. I can only give my best and whatever happens, happens.’ Simbine is still not prepared to commit himself by boldly declaring that he will run less than 10 seconds. All the 21-year-old was willing to say is: “I know that, if I continue to put in the long hard hours of training and run the right races, it will be only a matter of time before I start running times faster than 10 seconds. In the end it all boils down to biding my time and not becoming obsessed. Patience is definitely a virtue.’
LJ Van Zyl (400-hurdles) and Orazio Cremona (shotput) are the other two Tuks/HPC athletes who will be in action in New York. Judging by the season’s results so far, Van Zyl should have a realistic chance to finish in the top three. Only Javier Culson (Puerto Rico), with a season’s best time of 48.96s, and Michael Tinsley (USA), with a season’s best time of 48.79s, have been able to run times faster than 49 seconds.
Van Zyl’s best time so far this season is 49.26s. Cremona is in dire need of a good performance after his disappointing showing in Prague where he could only finish eighth with a best throw of 18.94 metres. He says: ‘In Prague everything just fell apart. My body felt “flat”. If I am honest, I have to admit that it was tough to handle my throw of merely 18.94m. But I don’t like to make excuses, so I simply have to take responsibility.’
Last Sunday Wayde Van Niekerk won the 300 metres at the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham, England in 31.63s. He clipped off 0.11s from the time of 31.74s that was set by the Ivory Coast athlete, Gabriel Tiacoh. On Saturday he will be in action in the 400 metres.
Last year in New York Van Niekerk broke the SA record with his time of 44.38s. Meanwhile another Tuks/HPC athlete, Wenda Nel, will compete in the 400-hurdles in Rabat on Sunday. Nel, whose winning time of 54.37s at the Beijing World Challenge Meeting is currently the fourth fastest for the season, is quietly confident of having a good race.
Nel says: ‘I don’t want to make any bold statements. Currently I am in a “good place”. I realise that my performances in the last two races were not flawless, but it is done and dusted. All I want is to have a good race on Sunday. I know that, if I stay positive, I will be able to run that near perfect race again in the foreseeable future.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott