Johannesburg - When Akani Simbine ran 200m in 19.95s last weekend, he became the third South African to dip under the mythical 20-second mark in the event behind SA record holder Anaso Jobodwana and world 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk.
With Van Niekerk having declared his intent to run more half-lap sprints, and Jobodwana on the mend after the injury that derailed his Olympic ambitions last year, the three are headed for a showdown in the event.
While they probably won’t make it to the same starting line at the same time – Athletics SA (ASA) is sending a team to the world relay championships in the Bahamas next month, which is over the same weekend as the national champs – they’ll be keeping an eye on each other.
Marc Labuschagne, ASA’s former national sprints coach and former mentor to Mathew Quinn, Heide Seyerling (now Quinn) and Lee-Roy Newton, runs the rule over the three and sticks his neck out about who would win if they do run in the same 200m field:
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jobodwana is the length of his stride. He reminds me of Asafa Powell...he has such an easy gait. He has a nice and fluid running style and that long stride.
What he lacks in absolute power, he makes up for with that fluid running style and running endurance.
Looking at his cadence, he has got a very quick turnover, but is still able to maintain his running style. I think he has the ability to run 200m in 19.7s comfortably, but that will come only if he is injury-free in training.
If he can pull an 18-month stretch with no injuries, he has the potential to do a sub-19.8s.
Wayde van Niekerk
I don’t think people understand how talented this guy is. He is so competitive, he could give Simbine a run for his money in the 100m.
If you remember the Olympics, where he broke the 400m world record, people were saying he was being caught with 80m to go, but they did not catch him.
Not only does he have the heart, he’s got the legs.
Personally, I believe he will be the first man to run under 43 seconds for the 400m.
He is better than [former 400m world record holder] Michael Johnson because he has a 9.98s 100m and Johnson has only got a 10.09s. He has ridiculous speed, which he then backs up with crazy times for the 300m.
In my opinion, if he decides to run the 200m, he has the capacity to comfortably run in 19.5s.
He has speed endurance and, if you look at his foot contact, he has incredible cadence. He is the full package and you would struggle to find a box he does not tick – and he is incredibly well coached [by Ans Botha].
That is why it would not shock me if he ended up breaking the 200m world record [of 19.19s]. Nobody gave him the odds to break Johnson’s 400m record, but he did, and all it takes is for someone to do it for the rest to believe.
It would be hard for Van Niekerk to get to the 200m record. But if that was his goal, it would take him two to three years to get there.
When you think of Simbine, you think of the 100m because he’s built like a 100m sprinter.
It is interesting that, up till now, he has not been doing training for the 200m, but now that he is working on it specifically, he looks physically stronger.
He has the quickest cadence of the three and he has raw power, so he has strength. If you look at how much he lifts in the gym, his weights are heavier than Anaso and Wayde’s.
I do not know him, but I have been told he has a very strong mindset; he sets himself goals and he achieves them.
I also don’t know his coach [Werner Prinsloo], but I hear good things about him being a scientific coach who knows how to get the best out of his athlete.
Doing the longer event will benefit his 100m immensely, but I believe his main event is the 100m.
If everyone was fit and healthy, Wayde would be the rabbit and Anaso would be chasing, with Akani not far behind.
When you mention the greats, you have to say Wayde’s name in the same breath as Usain Bolt’s because he has done the same thing for the 400m that Bolt did for the 100m and 200m.