Injured Simbine will be ready for Bolt
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Cape Town - He had to be helped off the track by his good friend and 400m world champion Wayde van Niekerk, but the situation is not as bad as it seemed for Akani Simbine at the time.
South African 100m record-holder Simbine pulled up with a hamstring problem right at the end of the final at the national athletics championships in Stellenbosch at the weekend, and lost out on the title to defending champion Henricho Bruintjies, who won in 10.17.
Simbine came second in a reasonable 10.21 on Friday night at Coetzenburg, but was carried off by, amongst others, Van Niekerk, who admitted after his victory in the 400m on Saturday that he had been “emotional” about what had happened to Simbine.
But their agent, Peet van Zyl, told Independent Media on Tuesday that the diagnosis on Simbine wasn’t as serious as initially feared, and that there is no chance of him missing the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, or even a June training camp with Usain Bolt in Jamaica, which will also be attended by Van Niekerk.
“Akani will only be out for two weeks. It is just a grade two hamstring, it seems like more of a strain than a tear. So it’s not as bad as we first thought it was immediately after the race,” Van Zyl.
“He first went for scans on Saturday morning, and then the doctor felt that there was too much swelling and that we should come back on Monday for another scan.
“So we went yesterday and the results showed that it wasn’t bad at all. Just two weeks out, intense rehabilitation and no surgery required. Akani will be running flat-out again in three weeks’ time.
“Akani told me he felt something in the blocks on Friday night, but then when he started, he felt it released, which is why he continued running. But just towards the end he felt it again.”
That means the 22-year-old Simbine will be fit in time for a much-anticipated camp with Bolt in Jamaica, along with Van Niekerk, but they will both take a break until June as Van Zyl said that “their coaches told me not to book them for any races during May”.
Van Niekerk will only run in the SA Student Championships in Polokwane from April 28-30, and said at the weekend that he will be hitting the books over the next few weeks as he studies towards his marketing degree at the University of the Free State, while Simbine is also busy with a computer science degree at the University of Pretoria.
But then it’s on to Jamaica, where they will end their stay by competing in the inaugural Racers Grand Prix in Kingston, which is being organised by Bolt’s coach, the renowned Glen Mills.
Following the announcement of the event last month, Bolt confirmed that other top sprinters such as London Olympic medallists Yohan Blake and Warren Weir will also be competing in the Racers meet, while Simbine will have an opportunity to face his idol, veteran Jamaican Asafa Powell.
Blake is the second-fastest man in the 100m and 200m behind Bolt, with times of 9.69 (alongside Tyson Gay) and 19.26 respectively, with Bolt’s world records being 9.58 and 19.19, both of which were set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
So there is a good chance that Simbine’s SA record of 9.96 could be under threat in Jamaica, while he and Van Niekerk are also sure to pick up some tips about running in relays, as the Jamaicans are the world record holders in the 4x100 in a blistering time of 37.04.
The SA mark is 38.35, but they could push for a relay medal in Rio in August, with the other real sprinting powerhouses being Jamaica and the USA.
South Africa could boast a team of Simbine, Bruintjies, Van Niekerk – who have all run under 10 seconds – and Anaso Jobodwana, who missed the SA champs with injury, but is still in the running for Rio.
Jobodwana – who is based at Altis (formerly known as the World Athletics Center) in Arizona in the US – won a bronze medal in the 200m at last year’s world championships in Beijing in a new SA record of 19.87, behind Bolt and Justin Gatlin.
Van Niekerk said in Stellenbosch that he would be prepared to take part in relays in Rio. “My views on the relays are that I’d love to do it, but it all depends on the fitness of the teams. I’d love to know that when I enter a relay team, we are all confident and can rely on one another, and are all fit to make the country proud,” he said.
“It’s no use if I’m not in good shape, but the next guy has to do all the work. So I just hope that we can all be in good shape and represent the country well. And if that’s the case, I will be more than willing to join.
“(Athletics South Africa) have contacted me for a few relays, but I mean, my first priority is trying to get fit for Europe. And I am a student – I have to sit in classes and do what normal students do. Everyone just has to keep in mind that the goal is Rio, and I need to look after my body and look after myself.”