SA has a very long sprint conveyor belt
Afew years ago, a track discipline which had been lying dormant for decades exploded across the country and South African sprinting entered a new era.
Since 2014, the likes of Akani Simbine, Wayde van Niekerk and Anaso Jobodwana have joined the ranks of the global elite, while the depth of local sprinting has been lifted to new heights.
Add to this the conveyor belt of talented young sprinters who are being churned out annually, and South African sprinting is in a healthier state than it has ever been.
It’s probably in a better state than many could have imagined possible just five years ago.
And considering the state of the sport, which was floundering when Simon Magakwe triggered the nation’s sprint explosion by dipping under 10 seconds in Pretoria in 2014, the national federation’s failure to organise a national relay squad was just one more issue to add to a growing mess.
Now, however, with Athletics South Africa seemingly stabilised, they have no excuses, and it’s a relief to hear that they’re finally doing something about it.
Aside from appointing former sprinter Paul Gorries as the SA relay coach, they have also formed a national base in Pretoria, creating more of a team environment among the country’s fastest men.
Along with the national rugby Sevens squad, the SA sprint relay team offers perhaps the country’s best chance for a medal at the 2020 Olympic Games. All they need is sufficient support.
Though the men’s 4x100m relay team missed out on a medal at the World Championships this year, they hit their straps for the first time by shattering the African record and proving they had the ability to create a formidable unit.
With the speed and the depth already in the bag, in order to go quicker they will need to gel together, and to do this they need to practice their changeovers.
That’s not to say they need to train together every day or have the same coach, but by giving Gorries access to the squad, he’ll have a chance to bring them together more often.
Next year’s Olympics is not going to be South Africa’s best, and in terms of individual athletes with medal chances, the pool is looking rather dry.
But in team events like rugby Sevens, the mixed triathlon relay and the sprint relay, the country has a chance to secure some podium places and boost the nation’s medal count.
Athletics South Africa is still not ticking all the boxes and the federation will need to work hard to develop women’s sprinting in the same way they have supported the men, but it’s a good start.
There have been widespread calls for the federation to create more of a relay culture in order to garner some public support for the sprint squad.
Considering their potential, it’s promising that ASA have finally answered the call.