South Africa’s men’s 4x100m relay squad, touted as medal contenders, exited the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the cruellest possible manner when there was a baton mishap at the first changeover.
South Africa’s men’s quartet of Clarence Munyai, Shaun Maswanganyi, Chederick van Wyk and Akani Simbine had been placed in the same heat as the likes of Jamaica, Great Britain and Japan and going into the event were fancied to finish in an automatic qualifying spot (first three), or qualify for a spot in the final via the two fastest non-automatic qualifying times.
In fact, given that Simbine, the anchor of the team, had finished fourth in the men’s 100m final a few nights earlier, and that Maswanganyi was a semi-finalist in both the 100 and 200m, there were realistic hopes that they could go all the way to the podium.
Munyai had come into the team at the eleventh hour after Gift Leotlela suffered a hamstring injury in the 100m semi-finals and had been replaced by Munyai. However, the dream came crashing down at the first changeover, when Munyai and Maswanganyi struggled to exchange the baton and the race was over before it had even had a chance to explode into action down the back straight.
Maswanganyi, the young 20-year-old emerging talent, bravely fronted up to the media afterwards.
“The way I practised exchanges with Clarence was at the same kind of exchange mark as with Gift.
“Unfortunately, they’re two different athletes, two different runners. I came out [of the handover zone] the same way that I usually do with Gift, who is slightly different to Clarence … I guess when it was time for me to take my hand out he was already on me … so the problem was the exchange. It was [in] the exchange zone between me and me pushing out and me getting the stick.
“There should have been more practise, but coming into this race there had been a lot of changes that had to be made because of injuries and there were a lot of complications. We still tried to do what we could and it was just unfortunate,” Manyanwanyi added.
Gutted for the South African team though . Sorry guys . I know you guys will come back stronger .
— Anaso Jobodwana (@_ambitious_jay) August 5, 2021
Support for the team flooded in, with fellow Team SA sprinter Anaso Jobodwana tweeting, “Gutted for the South African team. Sorry guys. I know you will come back stronger.”
Also in action on Thursday morning at the Tokyo Stadium was big shot putter Kyle Blignaut. He performed admirably, recording a 21.00m distance on his third throw which lifted him from ninth position after two throws, to fifth place in the final. He was later bumped down to sixth by Italy’s Zane Weir, but the 21-year-old will know that he ‘belongs’ at this level of competition and will be looking forward to the next Olympic cycle with renewed confidence.
Elsewhere, Michael McGlynn recorded the best performance by a swimmer in the 10km open water marathon by any South African at an Olympics when he finished eighth in a physical race in tough conditions.
McGlynn, still only 21, got stronger and stronger the longer the race progressed at Odaiba Marine Park. He calmly worked his race through the field as the laps were ticked off, going from 24th to 15th, then 11th and finally finishing eighth in 1hr 51min 32.7sec.
Photo: Anton Geyser