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Mighty Munyai blasts to new SA 200m record

The national athletics championships turned into a sprinting celebration in Pretoria as Clarence Munyai broke Olympic 400-metre champion Wayde van Niekerk’s national 200m record on Friday.

Racing on the fast Tuks Athletics Stadium surface, Munyai motored to a time of 19.69 seconds in the first of three 200m semi-finals.

That’s an impressive 0.15 seconds quicker than the 19.84 that Van Niekerk ran in Jamaica midway through last year and just 0.01sec outside Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks’ African record set at the 1996 Olympic final in Atlanta, US 22 years ago.

‘It’s a massive achievement for me,’ Munyai said. ‘I never thought I’d run that quick at the age of 20, so I’m really happy.’

Munyai’s new mark comes after Carina Horn broke Evette de Klerk’s long-standing women’s 100m record on the day was one of the championships and Thando Dlodlo set a new junior men’s record on the same day.

After Munyai’s heroics, it was former champion Simon Magakwe, who clocked 10.07 to win a wide-open men’s 100m final and Horn took the women’s final in 11.08.

Olympic 800m champion and 1500m bronze medallist Caster Semenya was in action in both distances. In the 800m heats, she led from start to finish to run an impressive 1:58.68 and cruise into Saturday’s final.

Running the 1500m final later in the evening she won easily in 4:10.68. In both instances, she was more than 10 seconds ahead of the next-best athlete.

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Pictured above, Semenya said after her 800m heat: ‘You never know what’s going to happen, so I couldn’t wait for the final. I decided to use this opportunity to run fast. Now I’m confident for the final and I know what I can do.’

But back to Munyai and two-time Olympian Akani Simbine says the youngster’s super 200m efforts aren’t only good for SA athletics but also for the international stage.

‘It’s been a while since we saw such a fast performance in the 200m. It was impressive to watch. I’ve got a lot of respect for the “kid”. He has come out here and showed he is prepared to step up to the top league. I hope he keeps healthy and keeps on getting faster,’ said the Tuks sprinter, who due to a slight hamstring niggle was forced into the role of spectator this weekend.

As a seasoned campaigner Simbine had some valuable advice to the Tuks youngster.

‘It’s important that he keeps his head down and go back in training to ensure that he keeps on delivering world-class performances. No athlete can afford to get stuck after one good performance. The challenge should always be to trying to be better and faster than the last race we ran.’

Simbine attributed South Africa’s sprinting success to self-believe.

‘We are past the stage where we are trying to figure out what the Americans, Jamaicans or for that matter [any] sprinters of any other country are doing, forgetting that at the end of the day they’re just human like us.

‘We currently believe in our abilities knowing we can achieve what any other sprinter in the world is capable of doing and be better than they are,’ said the Tuks sprinter with the utmost of confidence.

The fact that Simbine was full of praise for Munyai’s world-class performance does not mean there’s no rivalry between them.

‘Clarence must know I’ll be ‘gunning’ for him in the 200m the next time we race, and I expect no less from him when he competes in the 100m. I relish a good challenge. It is good for athletics.’

Simbine will be competing in the 100m during next week’s Liquid Telecom Athletics Grand Prix Series Meeting in Paarl.

Picture of Munyai in his record-breaking moment courtesy of Reg Caldecott and pictures of Magakwe and Semenya from Roger Seders/ImageSA