Johannesburg - If ever one wanted a sense of how quickly we discard our sportsmen from memory, sprinter Anaso Jobodwana has to be a prime example.
Still only 25, Jobodwana admits to feeling a little “like a one-hit wonder” before lining up for the 200m in the first of Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) three Athletix Grand Prix Series meetings, starting in Ruimsig on Thursday.
Yet less than three years ago Jobodwana – the catalyst of the current sprinting explosion in South Africa after making the 200m London Olympics final in 2012 – won bronze in the half lap at the Beijing World Championships in a then national record of 19.87sec.
Said record (now 19.84sec) has also been swept away by the sheer tidal wave that has been Wayde van Niekerk’s performances during that time, with Akani Simbine, Thando Roto, Gift Leotlela, Clarence Munyai and even teenagers Retshiditswe Mlenga and Tshenolo Lemao overtaking Jobodwana in the national consciousness while he battled injury.
So, does he also feel a little like a forgotten man going into this season?
“Running is something I’ve always done because I love it, not for attention or to be remembered as the guy who started whatever,” he begins. “Also I’ve always tried to shy away from the attention, so I don’t think I’m forgotten.”
He does reluctantly admit to having played a role in the sprinting fever currently gripping the country: “We do have conversations sometimes and the guys say if they didn’t see what I did in 2012 and 2013 (when he won gold in both sprints at the World University Games) they wouldn’t have thought it possible to put in performances like that.
“It was the same with me in the US, I’d compete against guys who would go to the Olympics, so I felt I could do it too – the guys also saw me and asked why they couldn’t do it. But all it takes is one person to do it, and it could have been anyone.”
Jobodwana going from the guy that started all the trouble to the guy that’s starting out all over again is thanks to a notoriously uncooperative slight frame which often rebels at the demands of sprinting for a living.
Having already had a hernia operation, he then got an inflammation of the pubic bone because his season was too long that year. It then took too long to fix because he and his then coach Stuart McMillan disagreed about how to fix it.
“He wanted me back in training when I was being told to rest and rehabilitate. It got to a point where I got a call from the doctor telling me if I carried on like that I could fracture the bone.”
Now based in Durban, he has also worked on an assortment of weaknesses in his body like his core, glutes and stiff hips. Jobodwana’s return home to stay – for the moment anyway – from spending his formative sprinting years on the US Collegiate system is one of those classic South African stories.
“Dr (Kevin) Subban, who was our team doctor at the 2012 Olympics, had asked me to come rehabilitate in Durban when my bag got stolen with my passport and visa in it. My visa then expired so I had to stay.”
While in Durban, Jobodwana says he has been coaching himself: “I don’t know everything there is to know about sprinting but I know enough to get a good performance out of myself. Also, my friend (US-based fellow sprinter) Ncincilili Titi and I constantly bounce ideas off each other.”
Looking at his objectives for the season ahead, Jobodwana has a long year ahead.
“I want to stay healthy, to perfect my 100m race, get consistency back in the 200m – I feel like a one-hit wonder, I ran a 19.87 and never again – get back into the Diamond League to run against the best, and if we have a relay team hopefully get a Commonwealth Games relay medal.”
By the sounds of it, he’s also in for sleepless nights once his wife Taylor delivers their first baby in three weeks. Like all expectant couples, they’ve been driven to distraction by the pressure of the ultimate responsibility, but they’ve had almost nine months to address it.
“We were nervous but we’ve had to put it into perspective, 25 is a good age to have a baby,” he says. “It’s a blessing because you’ve got someone else to fight for. Also, we’ve got a lot of help from Taylor’s family and my mother.”