JOHANNESBURG – Settling into the blocks next to the fastest men in the world, Akani Simbine will be looking to pass another litmus test at the Rome Diamond League meeting today.
The South African 100m record holder already has the Commonwealth Games title as a token of his abilities but will have to weather the strongest storm yet this season.
The field includes world silver medallist Christian Coleman and world-leading Ronnie Baker of the United States.
The race is evenly poised with Baker being the only sprinter in the field to have dipped below 10 seconds this season with his joint world-lead time of 9.97sec.
Baker has been the form sprinter so far this season, beating Coleman at the weekend’s Eugene Diamond League meeting. He posted a wind-aided 9.78sec with Coleman following behind him in 9.84.
Simbine boasts the 10th fastest time this season courtesy of his Commonwealth Games winning time of 10.03.
The line-up also features European record holder Jimmy Vicaut, American sprinter Isiah Young, and Turkey’s world 200 metres champion Ramil Gulyev.
The TuksSport athlete’s coach Werner Prinsloo believes his charge will be able to get one over some of the men’s fastest men in the world.
“If Akani has a good start, there are very few sprinters who will be able to beat him,” Prinsloo said. “At the moment it is all about marginal gains for him to become a consistent sub 9.90 sprinter.
“So we have been working on a few small things in his technique. The nice thing about it not being an Olympic or World Championships year is that we can afford to experiment a bit to see what works and what not.”
South Africa’s two long jump superstars, world champion Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai, will be looking for another double act in the sandpit in Rome.
The competition boasts the who’s who of world long jumping, including world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarria of Cuba and Olympic champion Jeff Henderson.
Manyonga remains the man to beat as the chasing pack look to bring his unbeaten run in outdoor competitions since September 2016 to an end.
His mammoth 8.56 metres in trying conditions at the Shanghai Diamond League in May is the best effort this year.
Speaking ahead of the Rome meeting, Manyonga said his goal for the season was to successfully defend the Diamond Trophy and earn the Continental Cup title later this year.
“I am just ticking off my bucket list; I already have the Commonwealth title and now I am going after the Continental Cup,” Manyonga said at a Diamond League press conference yesterday.
“I completed an undefeated season last year and I’d like to continue that. I didn’t have that much competition last season. I think it (the world record) could happen in a tight competition where everyone is jumping over 8.50m.”