POTCHEFSTROOM – The mercury may have been low but the action on the track was hot as Akani Simbine reclaimed his 100m crown at the South African Track and Field Championships in Potchefstroom in front of a packed McArthur Stadium grand stand.
Running against the best field ever in the history of South African track and field, Simbine dipped below 10 seconds in the semi-finals before clocking 9.95 seconds to win the title.
The country’s five sub-10 second men lined up in the most anticipated race of the championships which included world 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, six-time title-holder Simon Magakwe, and defending champion Henricho Bruintjies.
Simbine showed his class on a chilly autumn night dipping at the line ahead of Van Niekerk and rising star Thando Roto, who finished second and third respectively in a photo finish at the time of 10.04 seconds.
"I’m pretty happy with the time but I came back here to get my title that I lost last year so it is job one is done, Saturday is the next step,” said Simbine, who posted his fifth sub-10 second time this year.
“It is really competitive and I see as an exciting time in South African athletics and we need to milk as much as we nurture our athletes and take care of them.
“With what we have now we can go out and be a sprinting powerhouse, the potential is there, we just need to use it as best as we can.”
The race had its fair share of drama with national 200m record-holder Anaso Jobodwana pulling out of the race due to his legs cramping at the starting line.
Magakwe pulled up 20 metres into the race with Bruintjies missing out on a podium place finishing fourth with a season’s best of 10.17secs.
Van Niekerk, who stopped the clock 0.01 seconds short of his second fastest time over the short sprint, said although he had plenty of sharpening up to do the season was still in diapers.
Saturday’s 200m race could produce even more fireworks as it moves more into Van Niekerk and Jobodwana’s turf while Simbine also boasts a sub-20 second time.
“I was a bit too much of an Akani fan, but on Saturday I need to move back the focus but it is such an honour to give South Africans a show right here at home,” Van Niekerk said.
Javelin queen Sunette Viljoen claimed her 12th national title with a best heave of 63.49 metres further cementing her place in South African athletics history.
“I am very proud, I think it is my eighth consecutive title since 2008,” she said.
Jo-Ane van Dyk finished behind the Olympic silver medallist with a best attempt of 52.72m with Megan Wilke completing the podium with 48.98m.
Viljoen, who has already qualified for the IAAF World Championships in London later this year, believed the she still had the ability to break the world record.
Boasting the South African and continental record of 69.35m from 2012 she has certainly demonstrated she can scare Czech javelin thrower Barbora Špotáková’s world record of 72.28m.
“It is something I know I have in my arm, my long-time goal has always been to break through the 70-metre mark and it is something I will always chase,” Viljoen said.
“I will always keep believing and it is something I will always work for. Whether it is in my destiny, I don’t know, but it is something I really try to throw.”
The men’s 400m hurdles produced a shock result with Le Roux Hamman beating reigning champion LJ van Zyl in a close battle for his maiden South African title.
Hamman pipped Van Zyl over the final hurdle clocking 49.35secs with Van Zyl racing home in second in 49.52secs, and Constant Pretorius bagging bronze in 49.83secs.
Women’s one-lap hurdler Wenda Nel claimed her seventh national title which she won comfortably in a time of 55.16secs.