Antonio Alkana has his sights set on breaking 13 seconds in the 110m hurdles. Photo: Roger Sedres, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – After some incessant knocking, Antonio Alkana finally broke down the door as he shattered the South African and continental 110m hurdles in Prague earlier this week.

Alkana executed his best race yet, with his technique over the hurdles finally catching up with his superb leg speed.

Earlier this week, the Blue Downs native sailed over the hurdles in the Czech capital to cross the line in a new African and South African record of 13.11 seconds. The 27-year-old speedster shaved 0.13 off the national mark that London Olympic finalist Lehann Fourie posted in 2012 in Brussels.

While his early season form did not suggest he would smash the SA record at his first international race of 2017, Alkana knew he had a fast time in his legs.

“It didn’t come as a surprise at all, I could feel it in the warm-up, and I did those kind of times with my coach, so I just had to perform on the day,” Alkana said from his European base in Gemona, Italy.

“My coach (Marcel Otto) told me I was going to be the one to break the record, and in training, you could see I am a lot stronger than I was last year and it would come this year.”

Alkana went into the race with a season’s best of 13.45 posted at the Western Province Championships in March.

He also suffered a shock defeat at the SA Championships in Potchefstroom, where Tian Smit finished ahead of him, relegating him to second place.

Making his breakthrough in 2016, Alkana came within 0.04 of Fourie’s record at the Rabat Diamond League meeting to book his place for the Rio Olympic Games. Buoyed by a new personal best of 13.28 and the African title from Durban, Alkana went into his maiden Games with a skip in his step.

Although Alkana did not come close to his personal best at the Olympics, he still managed to make it into the semi-finals, where he was eliminated with a time of 13.55. “I went into the Olympic Games and it was a time that could have put me into the final, but in competition it just didn’t work,” Alkana said.

“I didn’t perform as well as I would like to perform, but I have been a bit inconsistent, so the main goal is to be more consistent.”

Although each race comes with its own conditions and circumstances, Alkana’s time on Monday evening would have been good enough for a silver medal at the Olympics.

Antonio Alkana says he is a lot stronger than last year. Photo: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePix

His performance launched him into joint third-place in the world this season, and also catapulted him into the contender list for the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

“At the moment, I just want to make it into any final of a major competition and whatever happens, happens,” he said ahead of his next race in Hengelo on Sunday. 

“It is so unpredictable in a final, where you can’t say who is going to win, and where the favourite can also lose. Anything can happen in a technical race like the 110m hurdles.”

Alkana’s national record ignited the hope that he could join an exclusive club of sub-13 second short hurdlers.

Only 20 athletes in the history of the event has dipped below 13 seconds, with Aries Merritt of the US holding the world record of 12.80, set in 2012 in the same race Fourie broke the SA record.

“Every hurdler dreams of going sub-13, but if it comes it will be a blessing. But for now, the key is to stay focused,” Alkana said.

“I don’t want to go to London with 13.4, so I want to build on this positive race and take it from there one step at a time.”


Weekend Argus

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