SA has a very long sprint con­veyor belt

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - @wes­bot­ton AROUND THE BEND Wes­ley Bo on

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.

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