FILE - South African sprinter Gift Leotlela. Photo: Frikkie Kapp, BackpagePix
FILE - South African sprinter Gift Leotlela. Photo: Frikkie Kapp, BackpagePix

No Simbine, but Leotlela and Munyai face-off in 100m as Van Niekerk, Semenya chase qualifiers

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Jun 18, 2021

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CAPE TOWN – Akani Simbine won’t be running at a World Athletics Continental Tour meeting in Madrid on Saturday night, but two young South African talents will be going head-to-head in the 100m.

SA champion Simbine is on the entry list for the race on the official event website, and was mentioned in the preview of the event.

But he has remained at his Italian training base in Gemona, and his coach Werner Prinsloo confirmed to IOL Sport that the 27-year-old won’t be running in Spain.

“Madrid was never on the cards really, it was only provisional,” Prinsloo said, adding that there were no injury concerns, and that Simbine’s next race will be in Lucerne, Switzerland on June 29.

But Gift Leotlela will be in action in the Spanish capital, and he will be keen to fix a few issues with his start. The 23-year-old is the quickest South African in the 100 metres this year with a time of 9.94 seconds, which qualified him for the Tokyo Olympics.

In Montreuil, France a few weeks ago, he finished third in 10.19 after he said he was “under pressure from the start, as I was thrown off by the quick starter on my right”.

Last week in Marseille, he ran 10.27 in a heat, but was disqualified in the final for a false start after a “stupid mistake from my side”.

So, he hopes to make amends in Madrid, where he is the fastest in the field now that Simbine is not participating.

“I’m always excited to compete, regardless of who I’m facing. It’s going to be a nice outing with my fellow South Africans on the weekend. Yeah, you can say that (worked hard on his start), but I’ve never false-started before. It was just a lapse in concentration, so we did not make it a big issue... rather a learning curve,” Leotlela told IOL Sport from Madrid.

“But everything is good. We obviously always work on different phases of the race, and I just have to put everything together on race day.”

Clarence Munyai is the other South African in the 100m field, and while he has qualified in the 200m for Tokyo, he is looking forward to taking on his good friend Leotlela.

“I am very excited to be racing in Madrid and doing the 100m again. It’s always a pleasure racing against Gift. I’ve been racing with Gift since we were junior, and we’ve always bought out the best from each other,” Munyai told IOL Sport from Madrid.

“I am not trying to qualify for the 100m – I am doing it to try improve my speed, and if I do qualify that will be nice. But my main focus for this year is solely on the 200m.”

Wayde van Niekerk will also try to make it to the 400m event at the Tokyo Olympics in Madrid, and will need a time of 44.90 seconds.

The 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder posted a short video of the Estadio de Vallehermoso on his Instagram stories on Friday, and will hope that the 50 percent forecast for Madrid on Saturday is cleared up by the time he’s in the starting blocks at 10.05pm.

Van Niekerk will be pushed all the way to the line by Botswana star Isaac Makwala and Colombia’s Anthony Zambrano, while SA champion Zakithi Nene is also in the field.

Other South Africans participating on the night include Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles) and Taylon Bieldt (women’s 400m hurdles).

* Caster Semenya will also chase an Olympic qualifying time of 15 minutes 10 seconds (15:10.00) in the 5 000m in Regensburg, Germany on Saturday night.

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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