Johannesburg - Akani Simbine’s coach Werner Prinsloo celebrated the greatest result in his charge’s career with a quiet beer somewhere in Springs on Friday night.
Prinsloo was in the East Rand setting up a venue for a function that was due to be held on Saturday, so he asked the guys at the neighbouring pub to set up the TV on the sly so he could watch Simbine’s race in Doha, Qatar, when it came on.
Beat them convincingly
After a race in which Simbine beat a decorated field to start his Diamond League season with a win, Prinsloo said he “asked the guys for a beer to celebrate and to calm down”. Usually pragmatic about the Olympic finalist and South African record holder’s chances, Prinsloo admitted that he would have been happy with any position in the top three.
But when Simbine (23) comfortably beat former world champion Justin Gatlin, Olympic 100m bronze medallist and 200m silver medallist Andre De Grasse, former world record holder Asafa Powell and former world champion Kim Collins, the coach was excited about the international season ahead.
“That win means everything because it sets us up for the season,” he said. “Running that distance in 9.99 seconds against that wind says a lot about his shape.
“I know the other guys have just started their seasons and are still finding their feet, but he beat them convincingly and you can’t beat someone who’s got an abundance of confidence. That win means we’re closer to the podium finish we want at the world championships”.
Given that Simbine dominates the top 10 fastest times in the world this year, with a fastest time of 9.92 seconds during the domestic season, the question about peaking too soon was always going to come up.
But Prinsloo explained how he didn’t think this was the case: “The fact that he can run sub-10s means that, at the moment, he’s in the top five in the world. He’s running them comfortably so he’s not on a plateau...he’s at a level where he’s comfortable and if he needs to push it into the 9.8s bracket, he can.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Prinsloo said: “What we do regarding racing, rest and training will be vital to keep him at that level. We need to play it by ear and see how his body feels”.
Simbine flew back into the country on Saturday and will spend a couple of days at home before going to Paris for an Adidas obligation. Then he will go to his European training base in Gemona, Italy, before racing in Boston and Jamaica next month.
Another happy coach was Jean Verster, who watched Caster Semenya pace herself to the world-leading time of 1:56.61 in the 800m.
“I’m very happy because we haven’t really started with the fast stuff yet – we’re behind where we were this time last year.
“But the races at the South African and University Sport SA champs sharpened her up. If it wasn’t for those, we’d be quite a bit further back”.
Hurdlers LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks, the other two South African athletes in attendance in Doha, were solid without being spectacular.
Van Zyl, running in lane eight, finished strongly after the final hurdle to come third in the 400m hurdles in 49.49 seconds, with Fredericks, who started solidly in lane one, coming fifth in 49.96 seconds.