Cape Town – Akani Simbine played a lone hand as Team South Africa’s last hope of a medal at the world athletics championship ended without success in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time).
This is now the third major event that Mzansi were unable to secure a single medal, after the 2019 world championships in Doha and last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
After Simbine came close in the 100m final last week, finishing fifth, and Wayde van Niekerk equalled that position in the 400m final a few days ago, it was up to the men’s 4x100m relay to get onto the podium.
SA relays coach Paul Gorries made two changes to the line-up for the final. Emile Erasmus was shifted to the first leg in place of Henricho Bruintjies – who was left out after posting the slowest opening leg of their heat – with Olympic 100m semi-finalist Gift Leotlela getting an opportunity in the second leg.
Canada for the win 💪— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) July 24, 2022
Aaron Brown 🇨![CDATA]>🇦, Jerome Blake 🇨![CDATA]>🇦, @RodneyGetEm 🇨![CDATA]>🇦 and @De6rasse 🇨![CDATA]>🇦 defeat Team USA to strike men's 4x100m relay gold!#WorldAthleticsChamps @AthleticsCanada pic.twitter.com/LgS72VQdz0
Clarence Munyai was retained for the third leg, with Simbine the anchor, while Shaun Maswanganyi was out with a hamstring injury.
Erasmus, who was outstanding in posting the second-fastest second leg, got off to a reasonable start in the final, running 10.65 – a marked improvement on Bruintjies’ 10.78 in the heat, but still only the seventh fastest out of the eight finalists.
American Christian Coleman roared out of the starting blocks in 10.35 to put the host nation into the lead, followed by Canada’s Aaron Brown and Briton’s Jona Efoloko in 10.45.
But the changeovers from Erasmus to Leotlela, and then onto Munyai, were not the smoothest, and even though the latter two men ran hard for splits of 9.24 and 9.44 respectively, Simbine had too much ground to make up over the last 100 metres.
The 28-year-old gave it a full go, though, running the fastest final leg of 8.77 to claim sixth spot in 38.10 seconds – an improvement on the heat time of 38.31.
Andre de Grasse produced a superb finish on the final leg for Canada (Brown, Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney ran the first three legs) as well – even though his 8.79 was just behind Simbine – but it secured the gold medal ahead of the United States as he held off 100m silver medallist Marvin Bracy to win in 37.48 seconds.
The much-vaunted American quartet of Coleman, 200m champion Noah Lyles, Elijah Hall and Bracy had to settle for second position in 37.55, followed by Great Britain & Northern Ireland (Efoloko, Zharnel Hughes, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and Reece Prescod) in 37.83, who edged out a Jamaican team that included Yohan Blake, who ended fourth in 38.06.
Ghana came up with a new national record to finish fifth in 38.07 ahead of South Africa (38.10), with Brazil seventh (38.25) and France last (38.34).
Bruintjies then expressed his disappointment with being left out of the final team on his Instagram account, and added that he would not participate in the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The SA men’s 4x400m relay team did not arrive for their race, while the women’s 4x400m relay group of Miranda Coetzee, Marlie Viljoen, Gontse Morake and Zeney van der Walt finished seventh in their heat in a time of 3:34.68.
The only real positive for South Africa on Saturday was the performance of 100m hurdles national champion Marione Fourie, who qualified for Sunday’s semi-finals with a superb run of 12.94 seconds – just outside her personal best of 12.93 – to end third in her heat.
The 20-year-old Fourie has been drawn in lane seven in the second semi-final, which takes place on Sunday night (2.10am SA time on Monday morning), where her main goal is likely to run a new personal best – as it will be tough to finish in the top two or advance to the final as one of the two ‘fastest losers’ – with the favourites being American Alia Armstrong (12.47 PB) and Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper (12.53 PB).
The other South African in action will be Wayne Snyman in the 35km race walk (Sunday 3.15pm SA time).