SA poised to dom­i­nate sprints

Sim­bine, Roto, Van Niek­erk and Mun­yai are in good form to chal­lenge for medals at the World Cham­pi­onships

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCK­ERT DE VIL­LIERS

THE IDEA of South African sprint dom­i­nance at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships start­ing in Lon­don on Fri­day may seem like some­thing out of an al­ter­nate uni­verse. But con­sid­er­ing the coun­try’s rise in the world ranks, it could well come to fruition.

South Africa has proven to be a force in the sprint events in the build up to the bi­en­nial show­piece fea­tur­ing among the top men’s rank­ings across all three sprint events – the 100m, 200m, and 400m.

Prov­ing to be a ris­ing power in the short sprint, South Africa’s two 100m ex­po­nents Akani Sim­bine and Thando Roto will go into the cham­pi­onships ranked third and fifth fastest in the world this year re­spec­tively.

Rac­ing at his third cham­pi­onships and fol­low­ing his cameo at the Rio Olympic Games 100m fi­nal, Sim­bine is right­fully sin­gled out as a medal prospect in the short sprint.

He boasts the third fastest time in the world in 2017 with the 9.92 sec­onds he posted in Pre­to­ria ear­lier this sea­son, and has reg­u­larly claimed podium fin­ishes on the in­ter­na­tional cir­cuit.

Roto is tied in fifth with Ja­maican leg­end Usain Bolt with both ath­letes post­ing sea­son’s best times of 9.95.

The 21-year-old Roto may not have been able to re­pro­duce his per­sonal best from March but he re­mains hope­ful to reach his peak at his maiden world cham­pi­onships.

“This is my first world cham­pi­onships and I am very ex­cited to be part of the South African team and I am con­fi­dent go­ing there,” said Roto, a Tuk­sS­port-HPC ath­lete.

“I’m past be­ing scared of th­ese other sprint­ers, I’ve com­peted against Akani and he reg­u­larly com­petes against the top guys.

“I’ve gone head-to-head with Akani twice and I think if I can keep up with him, I can do it with the other big sprint­ers.”

The South African duo will, of course, go up against the world’s fastest men in­clud­ing Bolt, who will be look­ing to fin­ish his ca­reer on a win­ning note.

Add for­mer Ja­maican world cham­pion Yo­han Blake, Amer­i­can stal­wart Justin Gatlin and ris­ing Cana­dian star An­dre de Grasse to the mix and the task looks quite daunt­ing.

But it they both man­age to make it into Satur­day’s fi­nal any­thing can hap­pen, giv­ing South Africa a rare chance of a 100m medal.

South Africa is in an even bet­ter po­si­tion in the 200m sprint with world 400m record-holder Wayde van Niek­erk lead­ing the charge with all three the coun­try’s qual­i­fiers ranked in the top-10 in the world this year.

Van Niek­erk will go into the cham­pi­onships with the sec­ond fastest time this year with the South African record of 19.84 he posted in Ja­maica in June.

Rac­ing in the 100-200m dou­ble, Sim­bine is ranked one place lower than Van Niek­erk with the per­sonal best time of 19.95 he ran in Pre­to­ria in March.

Round­ing off South Africa’s charge in the one-lap sprint, na­tional ju­nior 200m record-holder Clarence Mun­yai posted the 10th fastest time in the world this year his 20.10.

It has been quite the bal­anc­ing act for the 19-year-old Mun­yai, who had to juggle school work and train­ing.

“I didn’t re­ally ex­pect such a great sea­son al­though I ex­pected im­prove­ments be­cause I re­mained in­jury free and trained well in the off-sea­son,” said the Tuk­sS­port High School ma­tric learner.

“I’m not in­tim­i­dated any­more, at the end of the day the re­sult sheet doesn’t say ‘school­boy’ next to it, it re­flects the time and the place you fin­ished.

“I have to go there know­ing I have to job to do, and I have to per­form.”

The trio will have their hands full with Botswana sprinter Isaac Mak­wala putting his hand up to dis­rupt his South­ern African neigh­bours.

Mak­wala re­cently posted the world-lead­ing time of 19.77 in Madrid while Blake and De Grasse will also line up in the half-lap event.

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