South Africa’s men’s 4x100m sprinters go into this weekend’s World Relay Championships in Silesia, Poland, with very real ambitions of winning a medal. It will also give an indication of what they are up against when the Tokyo Olympics comes round in three months’ time.
The message to TeamSA’s quartet this weekend is, ‘don’t mess up and there will be a real medal chance’.
The gold medal is undoubtedly up for grabs after the USA and Jamaica announced they won’t be competing. Since the inception of the relay championships in 2014, the USA has twice won gold in the 4x100m men’s relay and Jamaica once. Brazil was victorious in 2019.
From a statistics perspective, Britain ought to be a definite medal contender on Sunday. They are the one team that has been consistently running sub 38 seconds. In 2017 (37.47) and 2018 (37.61), they were, in fact, the fastest team in the world. During the 2019 season, only the USA was faster, clocking 37.10s, while the Brits ran 37.36.
This season, the Chinese 4x100m relay team is so far the fastest. In March, they ran 38.23. Man for man, the South Africans is, however, faster. Akani Simbine officially clocked 9.99 and ran 9.82 wind-assisted. Gift Leotela season’s best is 10.16 while he ran 9.94 wind-assisted. Thando Dlodlo ran 10.21. Luxolo Adams’s best so far is 10.07 wind-assisted, but he has withdrawn due to injury.
The 2019 World Championships in Doha was the big breakthrough for the SA men’s 4x100m-relay team. They were the second-fastest in the heats, setting a time of 37.65s. It is an African record. Unfortunately, in the final, there was a slight ‘hiccup’. It led to the team finishing fifth (37.73s). The important thing is that they had dipped under 38 seconds twice.
Near the same team will be racing again over the weekend. Dlodlo should start with Leotlela making his national relay debut for South Africa, running the second leg passing to Clarence Munyai. Simbine will sprint for the line. The final decision is, however, Paul Gorries (national coach)’s to make. Adams or Emile Erasmus could run during the heats.
The athletes don’t mind who is going to run. They are one team with one goal. It is to medal.
According to the Tuks based Simbine, he can’t wait to start racing.
‘We have done what needs to be done during training. It is now about seeing how fast we are going to be during a race. The fact that the USA and Jamaica won’t be competing does not change anything. Relay running is about doing the job, passing the baton making no mistakes. If nothing goes wrong, we could medal. Even win.’
Munyai (Tuks) shares Simbine’s sentiment.
‘It has been two years since Doha. So it is exciting to be racing for South Africa again. I really believe we can win.’
Dlodlo (Tuks) sees the World Relays as a ‘building’ towards the Tokyo Olympics.
‘It is essential to test ourselves against the best because that is the only way to see how we handle pressure.’
The South African 4x400m relay team is Lythe Pillay, Berend Koekemoer, Zakithi Nene, Oscar Mavundla and Ranti Dikgale.
The mixed 4x400m-relay team is Simon Khuzwayo, Ranti Dikgale, Taylon Bieldt, Marli Viljoen and Deleen Mpiti.
Words: Wilhelm de Swardt. Photo: Karen Viljoen