SEE YOU OVER 100 METRES: Who will be the fastest man in the land? Akani Simbine or Wayde van Niekerk?
JOHANNESBURG – The athletes should do a collective lap of honour at the end of the two-day championships after bringing excitement back to the sport through their #FillUpPotch social media campaign.

The athletes have achieved more than what the suits at Athletics SA have over the last few years of hosting the championships. Let’s hope the administrators don’t claim it as their own.

The excitement for the national championships has been building since the third month of the year but it reached its zenith when Jamaican icon Bolt wished Wayde van Niekerk luck for the local showpiece earlier this week.

South Africans are in for a treat on Friday and Saturday when the country’s fastest men over the 100m and 200m take each other on in the sleepy, university town.

The 100m line-ups are likely to include Van Niekerk (9.98 seconds), national record-holder Akani Simbine (9.89s), Thando Roto (9.95), Henricho Bruintjies (9.97), and Simon Magakwe (9.99).

Although Bruintjies has not come close to breaching the magical mark in over a year, he should not be written off.

Simbine leads the pack, dipping below 10 seconds three-times this season, including the second fastest time in the world this year of 9.92.

“I am ready for the weekend for both, 100m and the 200m, and all I can say is that. I will bring my best, and when I say I will bring my best, they know what times to expect,” Simbine said.

Van Niekerk has been slow out of the blocks this season with a season’s best of 10.52 but the 400m world record-holder has the pedigree to make him one of the favourites.

Caster Semenya will run in the 400m and 800m this weekend. Photo: Mike Egerton, PA

Promising youngsters Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai, who have been flirting with the 10-second barrier this season, would have completed a deep field of lightning fast men but have opted to focus on the 200m instead.

That is Christmas-in-April kind of stuff, and should give any athletics fan a reason to salivate over what the short sprint could produce today.

The hopes of seeing more than two men dip below 10 seconds in the same race may remain just that, with the crisp Highveld weather after 6pm possibly playing a role during the 100m final.

Van Niekerk said although it was easy to get swept away by the excitement of the championships, he called for the youngsters not to get carried away by the hype.

“We’ve seen it over these last few weeks, and the last few years that there is a movement happening in South African sprints and even the jumps,” Van Niekerk said.

“I just hope they manage their time right and do it when it counts, I spoke to Gift the other day that it is at the major competitions we need the medals, people don’t care about the small little meets.

“Time management is very important and I hope the guys keep that in mind, it is one thing to try and fill up Potch and peaking over there when the season ends.”

Simbine is the form man and is tipped to earn the rare 100-200m double, but will have Van Niekerk and world 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana racing for the same honour.

Akani Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk will be going head-to-head in the 100m and 200m. Photo: BackpagePix

Which brings us to the 200m where Simbine boasts the world lead, with the 19.95 seconds he clocked in Pretoria last month.

Jobodwana holds the national record of 19.87, while Van Niekerk completes the trio of South African men who have dipped below 20 seconds.

Defending half-lap champion Munyai broke the South African 200m record in March when he posted a 20.10, while Leotlela ran a new personal best of 20.28 at the South African juniors.

The two men’s sprint events are packed with world-class athletes who have the ability to race in the final of any major championship around the globe.

This is not the world stage, this is Potch.


The Star

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