Sim­bine trumps Van Niekerk at SA Champs

CityPress - - Sport - CHARLES BALOYI in Potchef­stroom sports@city­press.co.za

Mzansi’s big-name sprint­ers lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions at the SA Se­nior Track and Field Cham­pi­onships at the Puk McArthur Sta­dium in Potchef­stroom on Fri­day night, and much of the glory be­longed to Akani Sim­bine, who won the 100m sprint.

Sim­bine stopped the clock at 9.95 sec­onds to fin­ish in front of Olympic 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, who reg­is­tered 10.04, while Thando Roto claimed a bronze medal with the same time as Van Niekerk.

Van Niekerk, Sim­bine, de­fend­ing cham­pion Hen­ri­cho Bru­in­tjies, teenage sen­sa­tion Roto, World Cham­pi­onship bronze medal­list Anaso Jo­bod­wana and come­back kid Si­mon Ma­gakwe set the lo­cal event alight on the night. Th­ese is an ex­cit­ing time for South African athletics.

The #Fil­lUpPotch ini­tia­tive proved to be a suc­cess as a sell-out crowd turned up to wit­ness his­tory in the mak­ing. For the first time in years, five top sprint­ers – Sim­bine, Ma­gakwe, Van Niekerk, Bru­in­tjies and Emile Erasmus – con­tested the 100m fi­nal.

Sim­bine dipped un­der 10 sec­onds for the fifth time this year and for the 12th time over­all. How­ever, Jo­bod­wana and Ma­gakwe pulled out of the fi­nal dur­ing the warm-up be­cause of in­jury. It would have been interesting to see how the pair would have fared in the biggest race of the year af­ter they im­pressed in their re­spec­tive heats.

Sim­bine said that he had come to Potchef­stroom to re­claim his ti­tle.

“I’m pretty happy with the time. I got the job done against a field that has the po­ten­tial to run a sub-10, and I’m not just talk­ing about one or two athletes, but the whole field. I see it as ex­cit­ing times for South African athletics. We need to milk this. We can be­come a global sprint pow­er­house. The po­ten­tial is there for all to see. I’m ex­cited about the fu­ture of athletics in South Africa. We need to make sure that we nur­ture the athletes and take good care of them,” he said.

Sim­bine also praised the spec­ta­tors for coming out in their num­bers to sup­port the athletes. Sim­bine and Van Niekerk re­ceived the biggest cheers dur­ing the warm-up.

“We ac­tu­ally filled the Potch sta­dium and brought back the ex­cite­ment. The stands were packed and I was con­tent in my heart to see the crowd adding to the at­mos­phere. I came here to win and that’s what I did,” said Sim­bine.

He said that racing against Van Niekerk had been un­be­liev­able.

“It was great. We had not raced against each other be­fore and we both took the op­por­tu­nity to en­ter­tain the crowd.”

Ja­maica and the US lead the way in terms of fiercely con­tested sprint events, but if the per­for­mances at the na­tional cham­pi­onships are any­thing to go by, South Africa could soon be join­ing that il­lus­tri­ous duo.

Van Niekerk showed his met­tle as he won his heats with­out break­ing a sweat, but found the go­ing tough in the fi­nal.

He said: “I’m quite ex­cited be­cause the new gen­er­a­tion of athletes coming through is very strong. Slowly but surely, we are turn­ing into Ja­maica. We have great depth. I pushed my­self hard in the fi­nal, but there are a lot of ar­eas that need to be sharp­ened. I’m also ex­cited by the re­turn of Ma­gakwe. It gives us ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion.”

Bru­in­tjies and Jo­bod­wana stole the show with their duels in the heats and the semis, with Bru­in­tjies twice beat­ing his ri­val in ex­cit­ing photofin­ishes.

Judg­ing by the tal­ent on dis­play in North West, the fu­ture of athletics in Mzansi seems to be on the right track.

The fe­male sprint­ers also came to the party as Ka­rina Horn and Te­bogo Ma­matu put on a thrilling show in the 100m heats.

Olympian Alyssa Con­ley took the women’s ti­tle in a time of 11.41 sec­onds. Ma­matu had to set­tle for sec­ond with 11.44. Nabeela Parker walked away with bronze af­ter clock­ing 11.56. Horn had to pull out of the fi­nal due to in­jury. Men’s se­nior 100m fi­nal: Akani Sim­bine (9.95), Wade van Niekerk (10.04), Thando Roto (10.04) Women’s se­nior 100m fi­nal: Alyssa Con­ley (11.41), Te­bogo Ma­matu (11.44), Nabeela Parker (11.56)

PHOTO: ROGER SEDRES / GALLO IMAGES

SPEED DEMON Akani Sim­bine (left) wins the men’s 100m fi­nal ahead of a strong field at the ASA Se­nior Champs in Polokwane on Fri­day night

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