Johannesburg - Mzansi’s big-name sprinters lived up to expectations at the SA Senior Track and Field Championships at the Puk McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom on Friday night, and much of the glory belonged to Akani Simbine, who won the 100m sprint.
Simbine stopped the clock at 9.95 seconds to finish in front of Olympic 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, who registered 10.04, while Thando Roto claimed a bronze medal with the same time as Van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk, Simbine, defending champion Henricho Bruintjies, teenage sensation Roto, World Championship bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana and comeback kid Simon Magakwe set the local event alight on the night. This is an exciting time for South African athletics.
Global sprint powerhouse
The #FillUpPotch initiative proved to be a success as a sell-out crowd turned up to witness history in the making. For the first time in years, five top sprinters – Simbine, Magakwe, Van Niekerk, Bruintjies and Emile Erasmus – contested the 100m final.
Simbine dipped under 10 seconds for the fifth time this year and for the 12th time overall. However, Jobodwana and Magakwe pulled out of the final during the warm-up because of injury. It would have been interesting to see how the pair would have fared in the biggest race of the year after they impressed in their respective heats.
Simbine said that he had come to Potchefstroom to reclaim his title.
“I’m pretty happy with the time. I got the job done against a field that has the potential to run a sub-10, and I’m not just talking about one or two athletes, but the whole field. I see it as exciting times for South African athletics. We need to milk this. We can become a global sprint powerhouse. The potential is there for all to see. I’m excited about the future of athletics in South Africa. We need to make sure that we nurture the athletes and take good care of them,” he said.
Simbine also praised the spectators for coming out in their numbers to support the athletes. Simbine and Van Niekerk received the biggest cheers during the warm-up.
“We actually filled the Potch stadium and brought back the excitement. The stands were packed and I was content in my heart to see the crowd adding to the atmosphere. I came here to win and that’s what I did,” said Simbine.
He said that racing against Van Niekerk had been unbelievable.
On the right track
“It was great. We had not raced against each other before and we both took the opportunity to entertain the crowd.”
Jamaica and the US lead the way in terms of fiercely contested sprint events, but if the performances at the national championships are anything to go by, South Africa could soon be joining that illustrious duo.
Van Niekerk showed his mettle as he won his heats without breaking a sweat, but found the going tough in the final.
He said: “I’m quite excited because the new generation of athletes coming through is very strong. Slowly but surely, we are turning into Jamaica. We have great depth. I pushed myself hard in the final, but there are a lot of areas that need to be sharpened. I’m also excited by the return of Magakwe. It gives us extra motivation.”
Bruintjies and Jobodwana stole the show with their duels in the heats and the semis, with Bruintjies twice beating his rival in exciting photo-finishes.
Judging by the talent on display in North West, the future of athletics in Mzansi seems to be on the right track.
The female sprinters also came to the party as Karina Horn and Tebogo Mamatu put on a thrilling show in the 100m heats.
Olympian Alyssa Conley took the women’s title in a time of 11.41 seconds. Mamatu had to settle for second with 11.44. Nabeela Parker walked away with bronze after clocking 11.56. Horn had to pull out of the final due to injury.
Men’s senior 100m final:
Akani Simbine (9.95), Wade van Niekerk (10.04), Thando Roto (10.04)
Women’s senior 100m final:
Alyssa Conley (11.41), Tebogo Mamatu (11.44), Nabeela Parker (11.56)