JOHANNESBURG – The University of Pretoria's Akani Simbine (Tuks) will be up against the world's who's who in the 100m on Saturday when he lines up at the Shanghai Diamond League Meeting with an eye on the World Championships later this year.
Werner Prinsloo, who coaches Simbine, is excited about the race.
"It is an excellent lineup. I won't be surprised if all nine athletes will qualify at the World Championships at least for the semifinals."
As usual, Prinsloo is not one to make bold predictions; however, he emphasised that the Tuks sprinter is not racing to make up the numbers.
"It is Akani's first 100m race for the season. Over the last few years, he was off to a fast start in each of his first races, but tomorrow it is not about time. Winning or at least a top-three finish will be more important.
"Whoever wins might have a slight psychological edge for the rest of the season. It will be like putting out a challenge saying this is what I am capable of, can you do better? If everything goes according to plan, it could be Akani."
The Diamond League 100m champion Christian Coleman (USA) and Noah Lyles (USA), the series' 200m winner are the two big names. Coleman was the fastest athlete last year clocking 9.79 seconds while Lyles's 9.88 was the third fastest.
The full lineup is Michael Rodgers (USA - 9.89), Bingtian Su (China - 9.91), Isiah Young (USA - 9.92), Simbine (9.93), Reece Prescod (Britain - 9.94), Tyquendo Tracey (Jamaica - 9.96) and Zhenye Xie (China - 9.97).
Up to now, Simbine has only one Diamond League victory to his name. He won in 2017 in Doha. What made his victory memorable is that he out-sprinted Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin and Andre de Grasse.
He was the only athlete who was able to dip under 10 seconds in the race with his winning time of 9.99.
Although the Tuks sprinter’s main focus for the season is to medal at the World Championships, Prinsloo reiterated that winning Diamond League races will help to establish Simbine as a true world-class sprinter.
On running fast times, Prinsloo said: "This season we are not obsessed about time. Up to the World Championships, we will be taking it one race at a time.
"The goal is that each time he should be a little bit better than his previous race. If he does, there will be fast times. That is one of the reasons why Akani will be racing a lot less this season than he usually would."
Up to the World Championships, the only other races Simbine will be competing in are the Oslo Diamond League (June 13), the Adidas Boost Boston (June 16), Madrid (July 6), Monaco Diamond League (July 12), London Diamond League (July 20), Zurich Diamond League (August 29), Berlin (September 1).
The other South African athletes who will be in action on Saturday in Shanghai are Clarence Munyai (200m), Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai (long jump) and Sunette Viljoen (javelin).
Africa News Agency (ANA)