JOHANNESBURG – Akani Simbine revealed that former sprinter great Usain Bolt was “proud” of the South African’s 100m title-winning run at the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Speaking to the media on a teleconference arranged by his sponsors Liquid Telecom, Simbine said Bolt had noticed a change in his approach to his racing in Australia.
“Usain and I spoke a bit after the race and he just said he is proud of me and proud that I was able to get out there and run,” Simbine said. “He said I didn’t look as nervous as I usually look when I raced in the finals. I looked more relaxed and at peace, and I think that’s one thing that made a difference for me."
“I went out there and did the job, and he saw that and he was very proud of that as well.”
Simbine had confided in Bolt and his long-time coach Glen Mills before the Commonwealth Games, and they had advised him to start the season slower out of the blocks than usual.
The South African has been making a habit of running sub-10 second times early in the local season and battling to maintain that throughout the year.
He opened his 2016 season with a new national record of 9.96 seconds in Pretoria before lowering that mark to 9.89 a month before the Olympic Games.
At the Games, he finished in fifth place in the final, in which Bolt raced to his third consecutive Olympic 100m title.
Last year Simbine clocked six sub-10 second times by early May and ended up with fifth place in the final at the IAAF World Championships in London.
“I had conversations with coach Mills and Usain, they also said I need to start saving those times for later in the season instead of starting off so high and ending off low,” Simbine said.
Simbine is yet to dip under 10 seconds this season but has his first major international title in the bag before he opens his international season in earnest at the Boston Games next month.
Simbine’s coach Werner Prinsloo said: “Running sub-10 takes a lot out the body and to do that so early in the season, there is no point. “We knew Commonwealth Games was coming up early so his approach was that times at this point don’t matter. It is about being ready for the big meets which are more important.”
Simbine added: “The Commonwealth comprises of most of the sprinting countries and to be able to race against most of the guys like at the Olympic Games or World Championships and come out as number one is really great."
“It showed me that if I get to stand at an Olympic final or world champs final, I know I’ve raced these guys before and I’ve beaten them which would give me the extra confidence to go out and do the job.”