Team SA set for medals
South Africa can count on its athletics team for medals at the World University Games, which officially opened in Gwangju, South Korea, on Friday. Team SA got off to a bad start with both the men’s and women’s football teams losing their opening matches to France and USA, respectively, on Thursday.
The athletics programme starts on Wednesday and runs until July 12.
And with Akani Simbine currently running the race of his life, there is a glimmer of hope as it seems nothing will stop the track and field team from emulating the gold rush feat from the previous global student games.
The 21-year-old Simbine this week clocked a personal best of 9.99 in the 100m to become just the second South African sprinter, after Simon Magakwe, to breach the 10-second barrier.
Simbine led a South African 1-2 finish with his university team mate Henricho Bruintjies at the European Permit meeting in Velenje, Slovenia, in the middle of the week.
The University of Pretoria (Tuks) pair has run the fastest times over the 100m this year.
They have been included in a Team SA athletics squad that also boasts leading female sprinters Justine Palframan (University of Stellenbosch) and Anneri Ebersohn of Tuks.
Team leader Danie Cornelius said: “Akani is the man to beat in the 100m and 200m, and I will not be surprised if he smashes the SA [100m] record.”
“Henricho, unfortunately, will only run relay as he was injured and only qualified outside the qualification window period [for individual events],” added Cornelius, who is the athletics manager at Tuks.
Also in the team is 2013 world student half-marathon champion Gladwin Mzazi from the Tshwane University of Technology.
The athletics team finished second behind hosts Russia at the previous University Games, accounting for 11 of the 14 medals that Team SA brought home from Kazan.
This was the same championship where Anaso Jobodwana became the first man to win the short sprint double at the Games since Italian Pietro Mennea won 100m and 200m gold at the 1975 edition in Rome.
This year, South Africa will be represented by 114 athletes in seven of the 21 sports codes in the programme in South Korea.
The Gwangju City Games end on July 14.