Cape Town - The 16-year-old Gift Leotlela (TuksSport High School)’s continued South Africa’s “sprint revolution” when he won the 100 metres on Monday morning at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa in a time of 10.20 seconds.
His time was merely 0.01 seconds slower than the 10.19 seconds run by Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu in November 2012, which is listed on the IAAF rankings as the fastest time ever run by a youth athlete.
Leotlela’s time is a new South African youth record and compares favourably with the times run by the local senior athletes. According to the all-time table on the SA Track and Field Statistics website, it is the second-fastest time ever run by a junior athlete. Only 17 senior athletes have been able to run faster times.
Hennie Kriel (coach) pointed out another interesting statistic. According to him Leotlela is just 0.04 seconds away from qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
However, Kriel will not allow his athlete to compete at the Games at such a tender age. There are numerous examples in the South African athletics history of talented young sprinters being burnt out by overzealous coaches and administrators who tried to fast track them.
Kriel is on record saying that he would do his utmost to prevent the same from happening to Leotlela.
“I have no doubt that Gift has the ability to become one of the greats of South African, and even international, athletics if he is properly managed.”
Kriel said what excites him about Leotlela as an athlete is his focus on success.
“Gift reminds me of Fourie du Preez (Springbok scrumhalf) at the time when I was involved with the Bulls. They are both introverts but they know what they want to achieve and will leave no stone unturned to fulfil their ambitions.
“At times it can be quite challenging to coach Gift. He always wants to know what he can do to run that little bit faster.”
When Leotlela talks about athletics his quest for speed becomes obvious. According to him, like with any young boy, soccer was at first his favourite sport. While he was a pupil at HTS Louis Botha in Bloemfontein he tried his luck at rugby, but he eventually realised that it was testing himself against the stopwatch that gave him a true adrenaline rush.
When he noticed in the beginning of the year that his times were stagnating, he decided to come to the TuksSport High School.
Tomorrow Leotlela will compete in the 200 metres as well. Earlier this year he broke the SA youth record by running a time of 20.63s in Pretoria. However, at the IAAF Youth World Championships in Columbia, Kyle Appel improved Leotlela’s record with a time of 20.57s.
Yesterday Werner Visser won the discus with a throw of 60.94 metres. Burger Lambrechts was second with a throw of 58.02 metres.