An­to­nio hits bal­ance of speed and tech­nique

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

AF­TER some in­ces­sant knock­ing, An­to­nio Alkana fi­nally broke down the door as he shat­tered the South African and con­ti­nen­tal 110m hur­dles in Prague ear­lier this week.

Alkana ex­e­cuted his best race yet with his tech­nique over the hur­dles fi­nally catch­ing up with his su­perb leg speed.

Ear­lier this week the Blue Downs na­tive sailed over the hur­dles in the Czech cap­i­tal to cross the line in a new African and South African record of 13.11 sec­onds.

The 27- year- old speed­ster shaved 0.13 off the na­tional mark Lon­don Olympic fi­nal­ist Le­hann Fourie posted in 2012 in Brus­sels.

While his early sea­son form did not sug­gest he would smash the South African record at his first in­ter­na­tional race of 2017, Alkana knew he had a fast time in his legs.

“It didn’t come as a sur­prise at all, I could feel it in the warmup, and I did those kind of times with my coach so I just had to per­form on the day,” Alkana said from his Euro­pean base in Ge­mona, Italy.

“My coach (Mar­cel Otto) told me I was go­ing to be the one to break the record and in train­ing you could see I am a lot stronger than I was last year and it would come this year.”

Alkana went into the race with a sea­son’s best of 13.45 posted at the West­ern Prov­ince Cham­pi­onships in March.

He also suf­fered a shock de­feat at the South African Cham­pi­onships in Potchef­stroom, where Tian Smit fin­ished ahead of him rel­e­gat­ing him to sec­ond place.

Mak­ing his break­through in 2016, Alkana came within 0.04 of Fourie’s record at the Ra­bat Di­a­mond League meet­ing to book his place for the Rio Olympic Games.

Buoyed by a new per­sonal best of 13.28 and the African ti­tle from Dur­ban, Alkana went into his maiden Games with a skip in his step.

Al­though Alkana did not come close to his per­sonal best at the Games he still man­aged to make it into the semi-fi­nals where he was elim­i­nated with a time of 13.55.

“I went into the Olympic Games and it was a time that could have put me into the fi­nal but in com­pe­ti­tion it just didn’t work,” Alkana said.

“I didn’t per­form as well as I would like to per­form but I have been a bit in­con­sis­tent so the main goal is to be more con­sis­tent.”

Al­though each race comes with its own con­di­tions and cir­cum­stances, Alkana’s time on Mon­day evening would have been good enough for a sil­ver medal at the Olympics.

His per­for­mance launched him into joint third-place in the world this sea­son, and also cat­a­pulted him into the con­tender list for the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don in Au­gust.

“At the mo­ment I just want to make it into any fi­nal of a ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion and what­ever hap­pens, hap­pens,” he said ahead of his next race in Hen­gelo to­mor­row.

“It is so un­pre­dictable in a fi­nal where you can’t say who is go­ing to win, and where the favourite can also lose. Any­thing can hap­pen in a tech­ni­cal race like the 110m hur­dles.”

Alkana’s na­tional record ig­nited the hope that he could join an ex­clu­sive club of sub-13 sec­ond short hur­dlers.

Only 20 ath­letes in the his­tory of the event has dipped be­low 13 sec­onds, with Aries Mer­ritt of the US hold­ing the world record of 12.80, set in 2012 in the same race Fourie broke the SA record.

“Ev­ery hur­dler dreams of go­ing sub-13 but if it comes it will be a bless­ing but for now the key is to stay fo­cused,” Alkana said.

“I don’t want to go to Lon­don with 13.4s so I want to build on this pos­i­tive race and take it from there one step at a time.”

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