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Hot weather equals good times - Akani Simbine as SA vie for 4x100m relay medal

Andre de Grasse of Canada first bumps with Akani Simbine (right) of South Africa after their runs in heat 2 in the men's 4x100m Relay at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon

Andre de Grasse of Canada first bumps with Akani Simbine (right) of South Africa after their runs in heat 2 in the men's 4x100m Relay at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA, 22 July 2022. Picture: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Published Jul 23, 2022

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Cape Town – Akani Simbine has vowed that Team South Africa “will fight again” in the men’s 4x100m relay final at the world athletics championships on Saturday night (Sunday 4.50am SA time).

Simbine produced a terrific last leg in Friday’s heats (Saturday morning SA time) to help claim the third and final automatic qualifying spot as the SA quartet finished in a time of 38.31 seconds in Eugene, Oregon.

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France won the heat in 38.09, while Canada ended second in 38.10. Along with the powerful United States – who won their heat in a new 2022 world lead of 37.87 – those three countries will be the favourites for the medals.

But South Africa can certainly go quicker. The national record is 37.65, and they will hope to get a faster start in the final.

During the heat, Henricho Bruintjies clocked 10.78 in the first leg – which was the slowest of all eight teams. Emile Erasmus showed great form to run 9.05 in the second leg, which was the second-fastest, followed by Clarence Munyai’s 9.52 (second-fastest).

Simbine, who finished fifth in the 100m final, roared up the home straight to run 8.95, which was the second-fastest in the heat.

So, coach Paul Gorries will have to decide whether to bring in Gift Leotlela – who was a reserve for the heat – for the final or stick with the heat quartet, with Shaun Maswanganyi ruled out with a hamstring injury, in what is essentially South Africa’s last chance of winning a medal after Wayde van Niekerk’s fifth-place finish in the 400m final on Friday night (Saturday morning SA time).

“The main thing was to get it to the next round… that is what we needed to do. To make sure we get into the final, and glad that we all finished up healthy – that is the most important thing to do,” Simbine told the World Athletics website after the heat.

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“And we will fight again tomorrow. We are grateful for the warm-up in the hot weather. Hot weather – good times.”

Bruintjies added: “There was a little bit of a mess with one exchange, but we managed to get it through. So, I am just happy we managed, and maybe we will have a smooth race. We managed to get a couple of training sessions, so we will be good for tomorrow.”

The United States, though, will be hard to stop. Even though they don’t have 100m champion Fred Kerley available due to injury, had Christian Coleman, 200m champion Noah Lyles, Elijah Hall and 100m silver medallist Marvin Bracy running in the heat, and they can still bring in 100m bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell for the final.

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“Just having fun. This is what it is all about, competing on home soil. So, just to come here, get the stick around, and it is fun to compete with these guys,” Bracy said.

“Tomorrow it is about the win, so we will try to put some more effort, energy and try to come out with the American record.”

Coleman, who ran the first leg, said: “To start to execute well, after the gun, I just tried to walk them in. We are super-excited. This is the fun part. If we put it together right, you know what I am saying, we can definitely come with the win and at least the American record, so I am very excited.”

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The SA 4x400m men’s (2.40am SA time) and women’s (2.10am SA time) teams will also try to qualify for the final in Saturday’s evening session at Hayward Field, while 20-year-old Marioné Fourie will compete in her first worlds in the 100m hurdles heats earlier in the day (Saturday 8.48pm SA time).

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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