Running sub 10-second times is no big deal to Akani Simbine. He can do so nine of the ten times he races over 100 metres, but winning in 9.99sec during the Gauteng North Championships at Tuks was special.
The wind and not the stopwatch turned out to be the Tuks based sprinter’s biggest challenge. When the athletes settled in their starting blocks for the 100 metres final, they were up against a 3m per second headwind.
Simbine is only the second sprinter to dip under 10 seconds so far this season. Benjamin Azamati-Kwaku (Ghana) clocked 9.97 in the USA.
The South African record-holder, Simbine, admits being disappointed and frustrated.
‘There was a mere moment that I thought, what is the point of racing. But you have to be able to adjust. Set the mind straight. Get focused on what you need to do. Run sub ten seconds. These windy conditions were some of the worst I ever raced in.
‘When I saw my time, I thought it is better than nothing. If it was not for the wind, I know I could have been faster.’
Gift Leotlela (Tuks) was second in a time of 10.20, with Thando Dlodlo (Tuks) third, clocking 10.35.
Simbine was impressed by his younger rivals.
‘It is great to have Gift back and to be racing against him. He has the potential to become one of the greats. Actually, this was exciting. Every athlete was prepared to race. If we can continue doing, so there is going to be some exciting racing in South Africa.’
According to Simbine, his strategy is simple. He never races against any specific athlete. His only focus is to try and execute the perfect race. The Tuks based sprinter, however, hinted that he likes ‘ruling the throne’. Whoever wants to outsprint him in South Africa will have to come up with something special.
Leotlela had reason to be happy. He managed to equal the second-fastest time of his career. The last time he clocked a time of 10.20 was in 2016. The past four years had been frustrating for the talented sprinter. Since 2017 he was plagued by various injuries. For now, he seems fully recovered.
‘Today was a good day at the office. There was no pressure. I decided the ‘body should go where it wants to go’ in such extreme windy conditions,” said Leotlela. “It was still a far from perfect performance. In the semi-final and final, I tensed up when I felt athletes closing up on me.”
Photo: Reg Caldercott/Supplied