Eighteen-year-old Rio-bound Olympian, Gift Leotlela, proved this week that it’s not about how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up when he won a silver medal at the Junior World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Michael Norman (USA) won the 200-metres in 20.17 seconds.
Leotlela, a double gold medallist at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, was second in 20.59 and Nigel Ellis (Jamaica) finished third in 20.63. South Africa’s other 18-year-old Olympian, Clarence Munayai, was fourth in 20.77.
An emotional Leotlela said afterwards he was driven to redeem himself after finishing only fourth in the 100m final.
‘The only thing I could think about while I was settling in my starting blocks was that I had to fight as I have never fought before in any race. It was certainly the “hungriest” I ever was to succeed in any race.
‘When the starter’s pistol fired I dug deep and ran as never before. That feeling when I crossed the line knowing that I had medalled was unbelievable. All glory to God,’ said the Grade-12 learner from TuksSport High School.
Hennie Kriel (Tuks/HPC coach) said every coach strives towards producing an athlete who is able to win a medal at a World Championship.
‘I think Gift’s performance confirmed that South African sprinters are becoming a force in international athletics. Akani Simbine ran a world class time of 9.89s on Monday, which was now followed up by Gift winning a silver medal.
‘What was especially exciting for me is the fact that there were two South Africans in the 200m final at the World Championships while only one American and one athlete from Jamaica qualified.’
Kriel was full of praise for the way his athletes raced. ‘I think Gift’s performance was especially remarkable. He raced six times in four days and ran times of 10.32s, 10.20s and 10.28s (all 100 metres) and 20.63s, 20.58s and 20.59s (all 200 metres).
‘It should be remembered that Gift and Clarence are both first-year juniors. The fact that they were able to qualify for the 100 and 200 shows the hard work they have been doing has started to pay dividends. The next challenge for them will be to convert a fourth place into a medal finish.’
After having bagged two silver medals, the SA team lies 15th on the overall table. Jo-Ane van Dyk won silver in the javelin throw with an attempt of 57.32 metres.
Picture of Leotlela winning silver courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA