PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The battle between the world’s current fastest and fourth fastest sprinters, Zambia's Sydney Siame and South Africa’s Thando Roto respectively, could be one of the highlights of Monday’s Memorial Josef Odlozil Meeting in Prague.
Siame and Roto can certainly claim to be two of the most improved sprinters in 2017. Last year Siame’s best time in the 100 metres was 10.28 seconds. In April he improved it to 9.88, which for now is a world-leading time.
Roto started the season with a best time of 10.29 and improved it to 9.95 in March. The question is now, how consistent are they going to be? Monday ought to give a good indication.
It is interesting to note that the African record is 9.85. Since 2013, when Roto won the South African junior title in the 100 metres, it was predicted that the youngster has what it takes to become a world-class sprinter, but the opposite has happened. His athletics career has stuttered from one setback to another, leading to him doing more long hours of rehabilitation than he planned on doing.
The Tuks athlete definitely had ample opportunity to quit his dream to become one of South Africa’s fastest men, but he has refused to do that, because that is simply not who he is. In March his dedication and perseverance paid off at long last, when he became only the fifth South African sprinter to dip under 10 seconds in the 100 metres.
Roto’s breakthrough race at the LC de Villiers Stadium was historic, as it was the first time that two local sprinters both clocked times faster than ten seconds in the same race. Akani Simbine won, running 9.92s, with Roto second in a time of 9.95.
At the South African Championships in Potchefstroom Roto proved that his sub-10 effort was no fluke when he raced to a time of 10.0s. With a bit of luck, or one last desperate surge, he might have dipped under 10 again.
Being the perfectionist he is, Roto naturally, would have wanted to run a faster time. However, he is not too despondent and is confident that running real fast times will become a mere formality in the foreseeable future. Monday is the first time that he will be racing since the national championships.
"In the build-up to the World Championships in London, I want to do at least one sub-10 second race. At the champs itself I hope to do at least two sub-10s, and at the World Students Championships, I want to do two sub-10 second races.
"I know at times I tend to dream too big, but that is who I am. If you are not able to believe in your own abilities, nobody else will," said Roto, showing his steely resolve to be the best he can be. Siame won a gold medal at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing.
Thando Roto aims to break 10 seconds again. Photo: Roger Sedres/ BackpagePix