SA men's relay team wants medal at world champs
South Africa's 4x100m relay athletes are, for certain, one team with one goal. It became abundantly clear during their first training camp on Saturday at Tuks.
All six agree that winning a medal at the World Relay Championships in Poland (1-2 May) is non-negotiable. It must happen. They owe it to the South African fans and themselves. The same goes for when they compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The statistics prove their confidence is not unfounded. During the 2019 World Championships in Doha, they set a new South African record running 37.65s. It was one of the four fastest times of the year. In fact, from 2016, 37.65s has consistently been a top time in the 4x100m relay.
What made Doha's performance special is that the South Africans hardly got to train as a team. But now, things are different. Paul Gorries (national relay coach) is a firm believer that practice makes perfect. The athletes would have it no other way.
"I think the more training camps, the better. It is helping us to develop a team culture," said Akani Simbine, who last year was the world's thirdfastest sprinter over 100 metres.
Everyone agrees that the team needs to improve by at least 0.50 or more seconds before May. According to Simbine (Tuks), no one thing will make them faster.
"We need to work on every facet of running a fast relay during training. The goal should be to do everything 100 per cent correct every moment so that when we get to race, there are no mistakes."
The South African 4x100m relay team won silver during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Henricho Bruintjies (Tuks) was part of that team.
"We can be the best in the world. The secret is never to allow ourselves to be caught up in the hype of everything. We should stay focussed on the task at hand. In the end, everything is going to boil down to total trust in each other and smooth handovers," Bruintjies said.
Sinesipho Dambile (Tuks), who was part of the SA team that won silver in the 4x200m relay during the 2019 World Relay Championships in Yokohama,
Japan, echoed his teammate's sentiments.
"I honestly believe that we can medal as we've got some of the fastest athletes, but we need to train together. The more we do so, the better."
To Clarence Munyai (Tuks), competing in a World Championships final is all about no margin for error.
"It only takes one small mistake to lose out on a medal chance. Having a good relay team is not only about speed. To me, it is about teamwork."
Simon Magakwe (Tuks) talked about "fluent changeovers".
According to Gorries on Saturday, the emphasis was to ensure that everyone was on the same page.
"We spoke about what we wanted to achieve and how we are going to go about it. On the track, the aim was getting the athletes used to passing the baton around."
Simbine, Munyai, Magakwe, Bruintjies, Dambile, Thando Dlodlo and Chederick van Wyk were the athletes who trained together.
Gorries, however, emphasised that the team for the World Relay Championships is far from finalised.
"I consider every athlete who runs a fast time to be in contention. Anaso Jobodwana and Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi will join the squad as soon as the international travel regulations allow for it."
Both are based in the United States.
The first 4x400m relay training camp will be on 6 March at Tuks.