By Gareth Duncan in Lusaka, Zambia
Sprinter Akani Simbini ran a 10.19s in the men’s 100m final at the Zone VI Games to break the South African junior record.
It was an unexpected performance from the first-year Tuks student, who hails from Johannesburg. His personal best before the tournament was a 10.44s. The 19-year-old wasn’t even the favourite for the gold medal ÔÇô his team-mate Siphelo Ngqabaza was.
But Simbini ran the ‘perfect race’ on the opening athletics day to slash the national junior record, which stood at 10.30s.
He broke away from the pack at the 40m mark and led all the way to the finish. Ngqabaza finished strong, but he couldn’t close the gap and was forced to settle for silver, despite an impressive time of 10.33s.
‘It’s funny because I’m still busy with my pre-season training ÔÇô I’m not at my best yet,’ Simbini told RoadtoRio.co.za. ‘So considering that, I may be able to go even quicker.
‘I was nervous before the race, but once I started, things just felt right,’ he continued. ‘This is my first international tournament appearance, and I’m loving it. I can’t wait to gain more experience.’
Athletics team manager Danie Corenlius added: ‘He definitely exceeded my expectations. I’m sure that his time is one of the best among all the top U20s in the world. That’s something to be proud of.’
In the women’s 100m, it was an all-South African podium finish as Chante von Tonder, Nabeela Parker and Phillipa van der Merwe grabbed gold, silver and bronze respectively.
This contributed to a good outing for the South African athletics squad, who won 10 out of a possible 15 medals.
Johnny Botha (18.6m) and Craig Caniham (2.11m) came first in the men’s shot put and high jump respectively.
‘I didn’t expect to get tough opposition from the neighbouring countries, but they did well,’ said Caniham. ‘I had to work hard to win the gold medal. Now, I want to go on and represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Games and 2016 Olympics.’
Janet Seegilier came first in the women’s long jump as she reached 5.88m, while Janike Kotze (gold) and Marina Griebenauw (silver) finished in the top three in the women’s javelin with top throws of 47.44m and 40.83m respectively.
Meanwhile, the visually-impaired athletics team won two medals in their first outing.
Jacques Joubert grabbed gold in the men’s 100m T12, while Vusimuzi Mosondo ran well to win bronze in the men’s 100m T11.