Late bloomer Alkana will be back for more
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
LATE, BUT IN THE GAME Antonio Alkana in the heats of the men’s 110m hurdles