Akani Simbine, seen here racing against Chijindu Ujah (left) and Justin Gatlin (right) at an IAAF Diamond League in Switzerland in 2017, will run in his first competitive race of the year on Thursday. Photo: EPA/WALTER BIERI

PRETORIA - The 100m men’s race at the second Athletix Grand Prix Series meeting in Tshwane on Thursday is a much-anticipated race as it heralds the first race of 2018 for South Africa’s 100m record-holder, Akani Simbine.

The 100m once again has an explosive lineup including SA Junior 200m record-holder, Clarence Munyai, World Youth 200m champion, Retshiditswe Mlenga and former SA 100m record-holder, Henricho Bruintjies among others.

Simbine has gripped the imagination of South African athletics fans after consistently racing under 10 seconds since he first broke the barrier in 2015.

He has already gone under 10 on 15 occasions, with a best of 9.89 run in July 2016 in Székesfehérvár, Hungary.

He also made history to become the first South African to reach an Olympic 100m final since re-admission when he finished fifth in Rio in 2016.

A year later, Simbine was fifth again, this time at the World Championships in London. With an average time of 9.94 for the 100m, Simbine lines up as favourite on race-day.

Henricho Bruintjies became only the second South African athlete to dip under 10 in the 100m behind Simon Magakwe, clocking 9.97 in France at the Stade de la Charriere La Chaux De Fonds meeting in July, 2015.

Bruintjies prevented Simbine from defending his national 100m title in 2016 when he edged the SA record-holder 10.17 to 10.21.

Bruintjies recently moved to former SA 200m record-holder, Morne Nagel, as coach and has had a much improved start since then.

Clarence Munyai is one of an exciting new crop of sprinters to have emerged from South Africa. He recently improved his 100m time from 10.20 to 10.10.

Better known as a 200m runner, Munyai is the 2017 Africa 200m champion and holds the SA Junior record (20.10). He is also the World Junior record-holder in the 300m (31.61). While his preferred race is the 200m, Munyai is a dangerous prospect in the 100m.

On February 23 he raced 10.13 to lower his previous personal best - albeit wind-assisted - before clocking his 10.10 later in the day.

He also held the edge over 200m specialist and 2015 200m World Championship bronze medalist, Anaso Jobodwana in the first 170m of the 200m at Roodepoort last Thursday.

While Jobodwana won in the end, Munyai showed he has real speed over the first 100m and had an incredible start. He cannot be ruled out as a top three position challenger on Thursday.

Retshiditswe Mlenga won the 200m World Youth title in Nairobi in 2017 and finished second behind his compatriot, Tshenolo Lemao in the 100m at the same championships.

With a best of 10.37 (run in Nairobi) in the 100m, Mlenga is part of the next generation of sprinters emerging from South Africa. 

Only 18, Mlenga has shown respect to the “elder statesmen” of South African sprinting, but is by no means intimidated and is using the Athletix Grand Prix Series as a means to improve.

Justin Walker struggled in the 200m at the first Athletix Grand Prix Series meeting, finishing eighth in 21.02. However the American flew in to South Africa only two days prior to the meeting and would have suffered from jet lag.

With a best of 10.05 run in 2016, Walker is not to be ignored, especially if he has been able to shake off the jet lag.

African News Agency (ANA)

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