Cape Town – He motored to his best time of the year, but Akani Simbine had to settle for fourth place at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Tuesday.
Simbine and coach Werner Prinsloo had opted for a different approach to their season after the disappointment of missing out on a medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, as well as at other major championships previously.
In those years, he was dominant and had run a number of times under the 10-second mark in South Africa before the international season, and he may have peaked at the wrong period of the year.
In 2022, though, it is all planned for Simbine to be in optimum shape at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in July, which will be followed by the Commonwealth Games.
Tuesday’s 100m race at the World Athletics Continental Tour (Gold) meeting at the Mestsky Stadium in Ostrava was Simbine’s first in Europe, since he won the South African title in Cape Town in April.
His best time in 2022 was 10.11 seconds in Germiston in mid-April, and he has been training hard since then to get primed for the international season.
Simbine didn’t have the best of starts on Tuesday, with Jamaican speedster Yohan Blake taking charge out of the blocks and over the first 60 metres.
The South African stormed back in lane four, though, and moved alongside Blake in the closing stages, along with British athlete Zharnel Hughes in lane five.
But no one saw another UK sprinter, Reece Prescod, on the outside in lane eight. With about 10 metres to go, the 26-year-old raced into the lead and won by a clear margin in a superb personal best of 9.93 seconds – into a -1.2m/s headwind.
Blake had to be satisfied with second in 10.05, with Hughes recording the same time in third, while Simbine finished fourth in 10.06.
Sri Lankan Yupun Abeykoon and American Elijah Hall (both 10.08) were not far behind either.
Prescod’s 9.93 makes his time the seventh-fastest in the world this year – with Kenya’s African record-holder Ferdinand Omanyala leading the way with 9.85.
But while Simbine won’t be happy with the position, he will be pleased with his time, as he wants to gradually improve over the next month ahead of the world championships, where he is likely to be South Africa’s best medal hope.
In that regard, Wayde van Niekerk pulled up after about 50 metres in a 200m race in Trieste, Italy last Saturday, while Caster Semenya is still trying to qualify in the 5 000m.