The South African 100m champion and reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist Akani Simbine will start his buildup to the Tokyo Olympics on 10 June when he competes in the Diamond League meeting in Florence, Italy.
Simbine is not the only Olympian who will be competing. Wenda Nel is racing the 400m hurdles at the same event.
Werner Prinsloo, Simbine’s coach, wants the sprinter to slowly hone his skills over the next few weeks in races. It is a recipe that has worked in the past. According to Prinsloo, there is a very thin line between being race fit and over-raced.
Prinsloo said the Covid-19 pandemic complicated planning Simbine’s international racing schedule.
Nel’s international campaign starts next week (6 June) when she races in Hengelo. The South African 400m-hurdles champion can’t wait as she seems to be in good form. The past weekend during a league meeting at Tuks, she won, running 55.63. More exciting was setting a new personal best 52.72 on the same day in the 400 metres.
Gift Leotlela who for now is South Africa’s fastest sprinter, is racing on Wednesday (1 June) in Montreuil, France. He became the sixth South African sprinter to dip under ten seconds when he won the 100 metres in 9.94 during the USSA Championships in Johannesburg.
The South African shot put champion, Kyle Blignaut, is competing on 7 June in Prague. He became South Africa’s third-best shot putter when he won gold during the USSA Championships with a throw of 21.21 metres. The Tuks athlete is confident of throwing even further. He believes a distance of 21.40 and further is possible. According to him, that is what it will take to compete in Tokyo in the Olympic final.
Simbine (100m), Nel (400m-hurdles), Clarence Munyai (200m), and Wayne Snyman (20km race walk) are part of the first squad of athletes named to represent Team SA at the Tokyo Olympics.
But they are not the only Tuks athletes who will be competing at the Games. Leotlela and Blignaut have qualified during the USSA Championships. Zokwakhana Zazini (400m hurdles) qualified in 2019 when he ran 48.73 during the World Student Games in Napoli.
South Africa’s 4x100m relay team and 4x400m relay teams qualified to compete in Tokyo. There is a real chance that six or more of the relay athletes will be from Tuks. The team that won gold at the World Relays Championships was Simbine, Leotlela, Munyai and Thando Dlodlo.
Photo: Reg Caldercott