Commonwealth Games

Headmaster's fight to get Simbine to sprint

2018-04-10 18:13
Akani Simbine (Gallo)

Cape Town - South Africa's newest sporting hero, Akani Simbine, was only convinced midway through high school to pursue a career in athletics.

Simbine shocked pre-race favourite Yohan Blake on Monday to win gold in the 100m at the Commonwealth Games on Australia's Gold Coast. 

To make it an even sweeter night for South Africa, Henricho Bruintjies finished second to win silver. 

Still just 24-years-old, Simbine matriculated from Edenglen High School in Johannesburg back in 2012. 

By then, he had already been identified as a future star and was snapped up by the University of Pretoria's high performance programme. 

On Monday, his career reached new heights as he claimed his first ever major title on the international stage, but it had not always been a foregone conclusion that he would become a world-beating sprinter.

"He had the talent, but he wanted to play soccer," Edenglen headmaster Trevor Weinerlein remembers.

"We had a lot of ding-dongs between us, but eventually he did listen and took athletics a little bit more seriously.

"We saw from Grade 8 that he just turned heads. At around about Grade 10 we got him recognised at a major meet, and the rest was history."

Simbine also went on to play first team rugby - on the wing, unsurprisingly - in Grade 11 and 12, but by then athletics and sprinting had taken over.

"He was just a gifted sportsman. He scored beautiful tries on the rugby field," Weinerlein added.

In the classroom, Simbine was someone who took his academics seriously, while he also displayed natural leadership throughout his school years.

"He was very humble and you can see that now," said Weinerlein.

"He was a very quiet guy, but when he got comfortable then he got a bit louder. He was very respectful and always willing to help. He was one of our top leaders and the head of sport.

"He was an amazing guy … kids like him just deserve it even more."

Not one to forget his roots, Simbine is easily Edenglen's most prized sporting product and he visits the school as often as he can. 

"Towards the end of last year we actually named our grand stand after him and we had a big ceremony here for him," Weinerlein said.

"He was really appreciative. He pops in once or twice a year and addresses the assemblies and gives the matrics some motivation."

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