Akani Simbine on Relays gold medal: ‘I knew I would catch up’
“I knew I could catch up.” That was how Akani Simbine felt about his exhilarating chase all the way to the finish line to snatch victory for South Africa’s 4x100m team at the World Relays in Poland on Sunday night.
The quartet of Thando Dlodlo, Gift Leotlela, Clarence Munyai and Simbine claimed the gold medal in dramatic fashion as they held off Brazil by one-hundredth of a second to win in 38.71 seconds.
In the end, the result wasn’t actually that close, as Brazil and third-placed Ghana were disqualified for technical infringements, which saw Italy and Japan claim the silver and bronze medals respectively.
But in the dash to the line, Simbine had to haul in Paulo de Oliveira of Brazil, who had a lead of a few metres at the final changeover. Simbine had to secure the baton in his left hand from Munyai, and by the time he was in full flight, he was quite a distance behind the Brazilian.
The Commonwealth Games champion didn’t give up, though, and continued to close the gap to the finish line.
The World Athletics commentators thought Brazil had won, but Simbine and his teammates waited for the official result on the stadium scoreboard… and there were whoops of delight when they realised they had done the “job” in Silesia.
“I knew it was going to be tough. The thing I had going for me was being confident. I knew I could catch up,” Simbine said in a press release from his club, Tuks Sport, on Monday. “We came to Poland with the idea to win a medal, and we did.”
South African sports fans and fellow athletes took to social media to express their joy at the country’s first ever men’s 4x100m relay title at the World Relays, with 2015 world championship 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana tweeting: “These commentators seem disappointed South Africa won. Wow!”
Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa tweeted: “We applaud South Africa’s #WorldRelays2021 team led by @AkaniSimbine for clinching a gold medal in a sensational victory in the 4x100m race at the World Athletics Relays in Poland. In this breathtaking performance.”
Munyai simply posted on Twitter: “World relay champions.”
The only other time an SA 4x100m relay team has tasted success on a global level was at the 2001 world championships in Edmonton, Canada, where Morné Nagel, Corné du Plessis, Lee-Roy Newton and Mathew Quinn were awarded the gold medal after the United States were disqualified as Tim Montgomery admitted to doping.
While the time of 38.71 was not the quickest, due to the chilly and rainy conditions on the night – and USA, Canada, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were among the countries who did not participate – the victory will give national relays coach Paul Gorries real belief that his squad can push for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.