Being a world class sprinter is not easy. It takes hours and hours of hard work and lots of dedication without any guarantees that you will be able to run faster times. It took Akani Simbine (Tuks/HPC) almost 14 months to improve his best time from 10.02 seconds to 9.99 seconds, an improvement of only 0.03s.
Werner Prinsloo, his coach, compares a sprinter’s dedication to that of a boxer who sometimes has to train a whole year for only one fight. Prinsloo says: ‘Sprinting is all about marginal gains. An athlete could train up to nine months trying to master one small change in his technique in the hope that it would enable him to run faster times. In short, it boils down to being patient and dedicated, while realising that all your efforts might be in vain. The problem is that there are many things over which athletes have no control, such as the weather and the way a meeting is organized. During the past three weeks it was clear that Akani was ready to run a great race. In fact, I told him the Monday before he competed in Slovenia that he was ready to run a sub-10-seconds race. All he needed was an opportunity to compete in the right circumstances and conditions. The secret of being a good sprinter is that you have to be able to make the most of it when the conditions are favourable. This is what Akani did on Wednesday.’
Prinsloo is hesitant to say when he expects Simbine to dip under 10 seconds again: ‘I think having been able to run 9.99 seconds means that he has made a mental breakthrough. He now knows that he can do it, but it does not mean that it would be any easier because the pressure will still be there. It is important for him to concentrate on running consistent times. It should be reassuring for him to know now that he is capable of winning a medal at the World Student Games in South Korea next week. However, because of the way the athletics program is structured, we have decided that Simbine (Tuks/HPC) will not compete in the 200 metres at the Games. It will be too tight for him to compete in both the 100 metres and 200 metres at the Games, but we still plan for him to compete in both sprints at the World Championships in Beijing. For that reason I have asked Peet Van Zyl (agent) to see if he can arrange for Akani to run a 200 metres race sometime in July to prepare him for the World Championships.’
Prinsloo predicts that ‘on a good day’ Simbine might be able to run a time close to 20.10s, or even a few hundreds of a second, faster in the 200 metres: ‘But watch Anaso Jobodwana in the 200 metres. He is going to be the first South African to break 20 seconds in the 200 metres.’ After his 9.99 seconds performance, Simbine talked about knowing that he would have a good race after he had a good start. This leads to the question of whether Simbine’s start is a weakness.
Prinsloo says: ‘I so not consider it as a weakness. It is just one of the aspects of his sprinting on which we are currently working hard. With a 100% start, a good race is almost guaranteed. As I have said before, in sprinting it is all about marginal gains.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott