Akani Simbine warmed into his Tokyo Olympic preparations with victory at the World Athletics Diamond League meeting in Florence on Thursday night. South Africa’s Commonwealth Games champion and fifth-placed finisher behind Usain Bolt at the 2016 Olympics overcame a sluggish start to finish strongly to win in 10.08sec.
It was the fourth 100 metre victory of his Diamond League career.
Once Simbine got into his rhythm, he moved through the field to touch off Ujah Chijindu (10.10). Emmanuel Matadi was third in 10.16.
‘The plan for today was nothing but the win. This was my first competition since our National Championships six weeks ago. It meant I was eager to race. I have taken a lot of confidence from the race, especially since the body feels healthy. There is a good race in the legs waiting to happen,’ said Simbine.
On asked how it felt to be the pre-race favourite, Simbine said his answer would have been entirely different if asked the same question a few years back.
‘I would have been super stressed from putting so much pressure on myself. Now, I take it as motivation. People believe in me, believe in my talent, and do what I can do, so I use it to push myself and become even better. I will be in Europe until we go to Tokyo, so I will be here and go to my other races as planned.’
The South African 400m hurdles champion, Wenda Nel, finished fourth running 55.20s. It is only 0.04 slower than her season’s best. Femke Bol (Netherlands) won in 53.44 setting a national record. Anna Ryzhykova (Ukraine) was second in 54.19 and Jessica Turner (Britain) third in 54.77.
What excited Nel about her performance is her consistency. Since she won her ninth national title, she has been continually running sub-56 races. Last night’s time was again an Olympic qualifier.
‘From past experience, I have learned that if I can run 55 seconds races all the time, it is only a matter of time before the breakthrough race happens. It will be fantastic if I get to run 54 seconds again.
‘I am happy with how I executed tonight. My stride pattern was perfect, and I had enough left in my legs to put in a final surge going over the last two hurdles. The only mistake I made was perhaps starting of too conservatively.’
South Africa’s Zakhiti Nene was fourth in the men’s 400m in 46.23. Anthony José Zambrano (Columbia) won in 44.76.