Depending on the weather on Friday, the winning time in the women’s 100 metres final at the South African Athletics Championships in Stellenbosch could well be the fastest time run in the event for the past ten years. In 2009 Tshlolofelo Thipe won the 100 metres in 11.36 seconds, which is the fastest winning time that was run in the 100 metres at the National Championships since 2006. Last year Carina Horn (Tuks/HPC) came close to improving on Thipe’s winning time when she won the national title at Stellenbosch in 11.40s, running into a headwind (-2.1m/s).
Because of the brilliant performances by Akani Simbine (9.96s in the 100 metres), Henricho Bruintjies (9.97s in the 100 metres), Anaso Jobodwana (19.87s in the 200m), Wayde Van Niekerk (9.98s in the 100m, 19.94s in the 200m and 43.48s in the 400m) the fact that it was Horn who started the women’s sprint revolution in South Africa has gone practically unnoticed. After last year’s South African Championships she equalled Evette De Klerk’s long-standing South African record of 11.06s (set on 20 April 1990) by running 11.06s in Madrid. In the heats on the same day she ran 11.10s.
At the World Championships in Beijing she ran 11.08s in the heats, but the wind from behind was too strong. In the semi-finals she ran 11.15s. In the history of South African women’s athletics only De Klerk and Geraldine Pillay have run times as fast or faster in the 100 metres. Horn’s revolution actually started in 2014 when she ran 11.16s in Madrid.
Judging by what happened in March this year at Athletics South Africa’s Night Series event at Pilditch, it would seem as if the Tuks/HPC athlete’s performances have directly or indirectly inspired other local sprinters to also lift their game. Horn won in 11.23s, Alyssa Conley (University of Johannesburg) was second in 11.29s and Tebogo Mamathu (Tuks) third in 11.40s. Both Horn and Conley qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio. It is hard to remember when last there were three athletes in a local women’s 100 metres race who ran times faster than 11.40s.
It is also the first time in quite a few years that two South African female sprinters have qualified for the Olympic Games in the 100 metres. Conley has gone on to qualify in the 100 metres for a second time while it will only be the second time this season that Horn will be racing. This means that Friday’s final could turn out to be a real humdinger with two athletes competing who had both won the South African title.
Horn’s first success was when she won in 2011. Conley won in 2013 and Horn again in 2015. Horn is not going to be bullied into making bold predictions on the outcome of the 100 metre final. All she was prepared to say is that her training has been going well.
The Tuks/HPC athlete says: ‘It would seem as if I am slightly faster than I was before last year’s South African Championships. The times I have been running during training are as fast as the times I ran in May last year, just before I went to race internationally. I have set myself a goal, timewise, of how fast I would like to run, but somehow I don’t think it is going to happen in Stellenbosch. However, if the weather is OK and my legs are feeling fine who knows what can happen.’ According to Horn Rainer Schopf, her Austrian coach, has not made any dramatic changes to her training program after last year’s success: ‘There are many small things we are working on. We believe that small changes could lead to big time gains. The one thing we have established after my indoor campaign is that I need to work on improving my race from between 20 to 40 metres. I am able keep up with the likes of Dafne Schippers (Netherlands 200m world champion) for the first 10 metres but then they start to get a lead on me. This means that I have to work really hard over the last 50 metres to get back to them.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott