Akani Simbine happy with 200m despite having ’the weekend’ in his legs
CAPE TOWN - After about 17.3 seconds of an epic 200m duel on Tuesday, Akani Simbine was still in the lead against Wayde van Niekerk.
The 100m Commonwealth Games champion had roared out of the blocks, and kept his shape impressively beyond his specialist distance against the 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder.
The fact that Simbine managed to hold on for such a long time speaks volumes about his development as a sprinter.
While Van Niekerk glided past him in the final metres to win in 20.10, his good friend can be delighted about the 20.29 mark that he posted – in the rain as well.
It’s a pity that the times won’t count towards world lists due to a +2.1m/s tailwind, but the performances prove that the two fast men could compete in more than one event at the Tokyo Olympics, as well as form part of a potentially explosive 4x100m relay team.
Simbine has long fancied himself in the 200m, but hasn’t had many opportunities to race over the half-lap event. His coach Werner Prinsloo is a tough task-master who wants his athlete to be at his absolute best in the 100m before even considering the longer distance.
The 27-year-old, though, clocked a quick 9.99 seconds last week, and his 200m chance on Tuesday at the Athletics SA Invitational at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium in Johannesburg, where he showed his class in coming close to the Olympic qualifying mark of 20.24.
“It’s really great to come out and run against Wayde, Anaso (Jobodwana), Isaac (Makwala) – they’re great guys, great competitors. When they step on the track, they are ready, so it was a great time to run,” Simbine told SABC Sport in a post-race track-side interview.
“For me, it was more – after a long weekend (of racing at the Gauteng North provincial championships) – coming here for a training run. I’ve still got the weekend in my legs, but really happy that I came out, and I finished off well.
“The 200m for me is more to give me that top-end, just to strengthen the last part of my 100m, so that I can become stronger at the end when I am going through the line. I am just happy with where we are at right now with it.”
Simbine added in a press release that he “just ran a terrible bend, but other than that, I’m happy with the race”.
His form over the last few weeks – 9.99 and 10.00 in the 100m, and 20.29 in the 200m – proves that he is well capable of going for both titles at the national championships in Pretoria, which takes place from April 15-17.
Even the barricades at Ruimsig athletics track could not contain themselves. @WaydeDreamer pipping @AkaniSimbine for a 20.11sec 200mr these guys on the same track just magic #ASAGrandprix @SPORTATSABC pic.twitter.com/1FUf4TwXzj— Udo Carelse (@udocarelsesa) March 30, 2021
“It’s an Olympic year, so it’s a year where we are supposed to be going all-out and running to the tape. That’s the one thing I am trying to do this year – just run to the line, and make sure that I do the best I can and come away with the times,” he said.
“It’s going to be a season to remember!”