JOHANNESBURG – He didn’t win his first race as a child and not even the next, but after being reduced to tears due to disappointment, Thando Dlodlo was adamant he could change that later.
And that’s exactly what happened. By 2009, he was the fastest 10-year-old in South Africa, and nine years later, he became South Africa’s fastest U20 100-metre sprinter of all time.
In March this year, at the ASA Senior Track and Field Championships in Pretoria, Dlodlo continued his ride with the top sprinters in South Africa when he set a new South African Under-20 100m record of 10.11 seconds.
"This year’s SA record is encouraging going forward. If I can get myself into my best shape then I can run even better at world juniors because it’s when I’m not in my best shape that I get beaten, which happened in the last two years," says Dlodlo in an interview with the teamsa.co.za website.
He didn’t win the 100m title in Paarl at the national U18 and U20 track and field championships a month later, but his gold medal in the 200m ended his championship medal drought of two years.
Presently he is preparing for the IAAF World U20 Championships due to take place in Tampere, Finland, between 10-15 July. He’s confident the groundwork he can put in between now and July will make him faster.
"We do background training before the season starts, enough to last us the whole season, but when the season gets underway, we don’t have time to be going back to background training because of all the school meets. During this time we just compete and do speed-related work."
What this means is that Dlodlo goes back to the drawing board with a 10.11sec over 100m and national 200m title to his name this season, so his confidence is sky high.
And with two months of dedicated time for ‘groundwork’ awaiting, don't be surprised if he steps on to the podium in Finland, nor should we be surprised if he becomes only the second high school athlete to run the 100m in under 10 seconds.
"I’m glad now that there are no races [until July] for now so I can get all the tools I need for my races overseas," said a soft-spoken Dlodlo. "The most I can train in a week is six times, but that’s usually in the off-season."
Perhaps this short break can be seen as a bit of an off-season, and he hopes he can start dominating the sport like he wishes his heroes did.
"I’m inspired by people like David Rudisha and Caster Semenya. Rudisha has set the world record four different times. These athletes are the best of the best, and I want to be able to dominate in a similar way, which is why I’m excited about what I’ll do in Finland."
"The three performances at the ASA Senior Track and Field Championships in the 100m speak for themselves," he reflects, ‘10.15 [heat], 10.11 [semi-final] and 10.15 [-1.3, final] show what I can do at my best."
He also added: "I plan for the future and I want to be successful in life."
Well, he’s halfway there, but things might take a turn for the good very soon!
Dlodlo is another diamond in the rough who forms part of the current resurgence of South African track and field, but he’s different – one of those quiet guys who know when and how to put on a show.
"I’m driven by the fact that I enjoy this sport, and the desire to record my quickest times and improve on them thereafter also drives me."
You might not know him now, but you will soon… watch this space.
African News Agency (ANA)