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Emotional Akani Simbine says he still has the fire to compete with the best

Akani Simbine celebrates winning the 100m during the 2022 ASA Senior Track & Field National Championships held at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on 21 April 2022. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Akani Simbine celebrates winning the 100m during the 2022 ASA Senior Track & Field National Championships held at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on 21 April 2022. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Apr 23, 2022


Cape Town - It’s not every day that you find a world-class sprinter break down in tears when addressing the media just moments after winning the 100m national title.

But it has been a career of mixed emotions and outcomes for Akani Simbine over the last decade, and it all came pouring out at the SA championships at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Thursday.

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The 28-year-old had just clinched his sixth gold medal in the event in a time of 10.31 seconds – well short of his SA record 9.84, but it was still a satisfying moment after the disappointment of a fourth-place finish at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Simbine spoke about how it had been a “rough couple of weeks” mentally in the build-up to the competition, and he suggested that he had been written off by some, who said “he’s not the same since the Olympics”.

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But the reigning Commonwealth Games champion is determined to stick with a new strategy devised by his coach, Werner Prinsloo, which saw him start the season later so that he can be at his best for the world championships in July.

“That’s the important thing for me this year, that when the final comes, I get the job done. I have to go and look back (at the race), but I am happy with where I am right now, and happy with my top-end speed. Happy with my fight, that I don’t just give up, and that I can still fight to the line,” Simbine said.

“I still have a fire in me – that’s the big thing, and that means a lot to me. This fire in me that wants to win and wants to do amazing things with athletics.”

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But then, when it was mentioned that his Central Gauteng Athletics teammate Carina Horn had made it a 100m double for his new province, Simbine mentioned Prinsloo, and the emotion of it all saw him taking a few moments to compose himself after the tears started flowing.

“Yeah, double for my coach. That’s someone that’s been with me… Everybody said to him he’s just a one-athlete coach – and now he’s been able to prove to people that he can make other athletes run,” Simbine said.

“Even the respect that he deserves… We’ve formed our group, and now we are going to look on to Clarence (Munyai), and support Clarence and give him all the support, because we believe he can do amazing things as well. Big up to our group.

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“Coach is amazing, man! He is a tough coach. He does push us to our limits, but at the same time, he understands when things are going on and everything.”

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Asked if he was referring to anyone in particular when he was raising his finger before the finish line, Simbine said: “Just a statement. I’ve worked hard for this… I’ve worked so hard to be where I am, and it’s not something I’ve just been given. I’m just happy that some people respect me – some people don’t respect me – but at the end of the day, I am something good for athletics in South Africa.

“If I can just inspire younger athletes to do something great... Like Brad (Nkoana, a 17-year-old who finished second in the 100m final) is an amazing talent. If he can go out there, he can shock the world, and that will be amazing.”

Horn won her title in 11.54 seconds, and while she is planning her European season over the next few months, she is not thinking about the world championships in Oregon in the United States.

“I would rather prefer to go to the Commonwealth Games – because of the time-zones and everything,” the 33-year-old said.