Our sprinters have been clocking fast times lately, but a closer look shows that they are still slightly slower than Olympic and World Championships medal times, writes
No South African has won a short-sprint medal since readmission, but that might be about to change, as three of our sprinters have now run the 100m in less than 10 seconds and Wayde van Niekerk even claimed the 400m continental record – albeit briefly.
Nevertheless, they are still some way off what it takes to be the best in the world, especially at Olympic or world championships level
The new generation of sprinters has managed to challenge the world’s fastest men over the 100m, with Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies among the newest members of the exclusive sub-10-seconds club.
The duo, together with the banned Simon Magakwe, ranks in the top 100 of the all-time list of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over the 100m, an event that is dominated by Americans and Jamaicans.
Simbine and Bruintjies – both 21 and joint South African 100m record holders – have each clocked a personal best of 9.97 seconds this year.
But in breaking the 10-second barrier, their marks still fall short of medal territory when compared with Jamaican Usain Bolt’s Olympic-winning and world short-sprint-title times.
In comparison, Van Niekerk is in a class of his own – and athletics experts tip him as a sure bet to deliver the elusive sprint medal at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, next month.
There is good reason for the country to hope the 22year-old University of the Free State marketing student can make history.
His personal best of 43.96 equates to silver medal times at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 world champs – and gold at the 2011 global championships.
Van Niekerk is among just three athletes to run sub44 in one lap so far this year. Others are Botswana’s