Leotlela gets the Gift of a sub-10 second time
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CAPE TOWN – After a long and arduous road littered with injury potholes, Gift Leotlela's hard work and sacrifices have all paid off in the end.
The Tuks sprinter, who turned 23 last Wednesday, gave himself the perfect belated birthday present on Friday by posting his first legal sub-10 second time to win the 100m title at the University Sports South Africa (USSA) championships in Johannesburg.
He stopped the clock at 9.94 to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and become the sixth SA athlete to breach the sub-10 second barrier.
He follows in the footsteps of SA record-holder Akani Simbine (9.89), Wayde van Niekerk (9.94), Thando Roto (9.95), Henricho Bruintjies (9.97) and Simon Magakwe (9.98), who was the first local athlete to make the breakthrough in 2014.
Leotlela ran the same 9.94 time at the SA championships last month, but it was not recognised as the tail-wind was 2.8 metres per second, which was beyond the legal limit of 2.0m/s.
This time around, the wind measurement was 1.3m/s.
Fresh from the World Relays in Poland, where he was part of the victorious Team South Africa that won the gold medal in the 4x100m, Leotlela showed what was to come by posting 10.02 in the semi-finals at the USSA event.
"I had a good start in my semi-final. Over the latter stages of the race, I purposely slowed down to save my legs. In the final, my only goal was to 'execute' my technique to perfection. I again had a good start. Then it was a case of running flat out until I crossed the finish line," Leotlela told the Tuks Sport club website.
"It feels amazing."
Having won a silver medal in the 200m at the 2016 World Junior Championships, Leotlela qualified for the Rio Olympics, and become the youngest track and field athlete to represent South Africa at the age of 18 years and two months.
Now, after years of injuries such as a lower back fracture, hamstring and knee problems, Leotlela can get ready for his second Olympics five years later.
His form also bodes well for Team SA's chances of securing a medal in the 4x100m relay in Tokyo.