Johannesburg – South African sprinting king Simon Magakwe's historic run at the national championship in Pretoria where he broke through the 10-second barrier could see the country become a sprinting hub.
The 27-year-old had the country abuzz when raced to his sixth national title in a time of 9.98 seconds, with the second-placed Akani Simbine narrowly missing out on his own sub-10 second race with a time of 10.02 seconds.
For years there had been an over emphasis on distance and middle distance running in the country, as South African sprinters seemed incapable of breaching 10 seconds over the 100 metre dash.
Six years after Magakwe pitched at the 2009 championships in Stellenbosch with his kit in a Shoprite Checkers bag and spikes he borrowed from 800m legend Hezekiel Sepeng, he finally made true on his promise to break the record.
He won his maiden championships in a time of 10.21 seconds and six years later he has whittled that time down by 0.23 seconds to etch his name into the history books forever.
“We've been talking about making this record go away since two years ago, and people have been pushing me and I said 'it will come',” Magakwe said after the race.
“I am so glad it came today, so everyone is excited.”
Not only did he break the magical barrier but he also smashed the South African record of 10.06 seconds that he shared with Johan Rossouw.
The 26-year-old record had been terrorising many a sprinter but careers had come and gone with the record threatened but unbeaten.
Two years ago the hope became a real possibility when Magakwe equalled the mark at the SA Student Championships in 2012.
During the semi-finals on the first day of the championships one suspected that history would be made in the final the following day.
Magakwe narrowly missed out on breaking his joint 100m record in the semi-finals when he clocked a time of 10.07 seconds.
Roscoe Engel was the fastest in his semi-final with a time of 10.17 seconds, while Simbine, won his race in 10.11 seconds.
“I knew that 10.0 seconds was in my legs, so it was not difficult even yesterday (Friday) I ran close to that time,” he said.
“I just hope some sponsors will come board, I mean this his history I made today and I people will invest in me for the 2016
Rio Olympic Games.”
Watching from the stands, Olympic 100m finalist Anaso Jobodwana walked onto the track to congratulate his compatriot.
After an indifferent 2013 in which Magakwe battled with injury, attention turned to Jobodwana, who ran a time of 10.10 seconds –
the fastest time by a South African for the year – at the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia.
Jobodwana expressed his hope that Magakwe's run would open the flood gates for similar times by South African athletes.
“I am really glad for him (Magakwe) and Akani, and I am happy for the way it had turned out,” Jobodwana said.
“It shows us that we have the potential and we can take it not just from the 100m but to the 200m and the 400m like we've already been dominating the 800m.
“In no time we could have something like Jamaica, because we have the talent but it is just that athletics doesn't have the appeal right now.”
While Simbine set a new personal best and also broke through the previous national record, he was gutted about narrowly missing out on breaking through the 10-second barrier.
“The sad thing is I can't remember a part of it (the race), I am just happy that I did my best and ran my PB,” Simbine said.
“I didn't expect to go even that close (to breaking through 10
seconds), so I am pretty happy.”
These three athletes are among the fastest South Africans of all time and they could form the base of a strong 4x100m relay team that could challenge for a medal at the inaugural IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas in May. – Sapa