Late bloomer Alkana will be back for more

CityPress - - Sport -

Three years ago, Team SA’s IAAF World Cham­pi­onships squad mem­ber An­to­nio Alkana worked with his dad at an advertising com­pany putting up advertising bill­boards around Cape Town.

This week, the 25-year-old from the Cape Town sub­urb of Brent­wood Park launched him­self on to the global ath­let­ics stage.

Alkana is a late bloomer, con­sid­er­ing he only took up track and field af­ter he fin­ished school in 2008.

“I only started do­ing the 110m hur­dles three years af­ter I had fin­ished school, but it was on and off,” said Alkana. “I was work­ing with my fa­ther at an advertising com­pany putting up bill­boards, but I quit. I told my­self ‘let me have a go at [ath­let­ics]’. It worked out, and I made the world cham­pi­onships team.”

Although he did not progress be­yond the first round of his event on his de­but at the global show­piece, be­ing in the mix among the fastest men and women of world ath­let­ics was a mas­sive achieve­ment.

“I reached my goal just to be here,” said Alkana, who missed out on a semi­fi­nal berth by a hun­dredth of a sec­ond.

He fin­ished sixth in the first round in 13.63 sec­onds, nowhere near his per­sonal best of 13.47 sec­onds. The Bel­lville Ath­let­ics Club run­ner fell just out­side of the 24 who ad­vanced. Alkana was drawn in the same first round heat as US Olympic cham­pion and world record holder Aries Mer­ritt.

Mer­ritt trains with SA 200m sprinter Anaso Jo­bod­wana at Altis (for­merly the World Ath­let­ics Cen­ter) in Phoenix, Ari­zona.

Un­like those two, who are be­ing de­vel­oped into world-class ath­letes in a high-per­for­mance-cen­tre en­vi­ron­ment, Alkana trav­els a long dis­tance by taxi to reach his train­ing ground. “I catch two taxis from home to train­ing or go in my own car some­times,” he said. He de­pends on his coach, Mar­cel Otto, to pol­ish his tal­ent on the track. The two have been to­gether since 2009.

Lack of fi­nan­cial sup­port meant Otto could not af­ford to be with Alkana in China, un­like his other na­tional team­mates, who brought their per­sonal coaches.

The ath­lete said he owed it to the sup­port from his com­mu­nity – fi­nan­cially and oth­er­wise – to pre­pare for the world cham­pi­onships.

“Hur­dles are a tech­ni­cal event and, tech­ni­cally, I’m not one of the best – but once I get it right, I’ll achieve faster times. It is only my third con­sec­u­tive year fo­cus­ing on the hur­dles,” said Alkana, who has a five-year-old son. His next goal is the Olympic Games in Rio next year. “In the off sea­son I’ll start do­ing gym work. Most of the guys have en­cour­aged me to do gym to get power. Once I get to ex­e­cute power and work that with my train­ing on the track, I’ll run faster.”

– Daniel Mothowagae in Bei­jing

PHOTO: ROGER SE­DRES / GALLO IM­AGES

LATE, BUT IN

THE GAME An­to­nio Alkana in the heats of the men’s 110m

hur­dles

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