South Africa sprinter Akani Simbine. Photo: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s fastest man will finally get the 100 percent attention from his long-time mentor which could elevate him to world dominance now that Werner Prinsloo is a full-time coach.

Olympic and World Championships finalist Akani Simbine’s sponsor, Liquid Telecom, has made it possible for Prinsloo to quit his job in IT to focus all his attention on the South African 100m record-holder.

“It is one of those dream-come-true situations, you work towards something for years and years, then suddenly it happens. I still can’t believe it to be honest,” Prinsloo said.

“I love coaching, the hard work was to find that balance between work, athletics and my family duties, trying to get away from the office to get to the track. I enjoy being at the track and doing the research and now I am able to do it on a full-time basis.”

While Prinsloo’s employers have been accommodating over the last few seasons, allowing him to travel with Simbine for the odd training camp and major championships, their goodwill can only go so far and this year Simbine had to spend a crucial part of his international season without his coach by his side.

“It affords me time to really think about what we are doing and why we are doing certain things, whereas in the past work kept me busy eight hours of the day and you don’t really have time to really think about what you are doing and why you are doing it,” Prinsloo said.

“Now I have the time to really sit down and do the research, speak to other coaches.”

Simbine made a storming start to his season, becoming the first South African to run under 10 seconds in the 100m and 20 seconds in the 200m on the same day at a regular league meeting in Pretoria in March.

Later that month he again raced into the history books when he and Thando Roto became the first South Africans to both dip below 10 seconds in the same race.

His time of 9.92s in that race is the fourth fastest this year, while his consistent podium finishes on the international circuit elevated him to a medal contender for the world championships.

However, Simbine’s performances slightly dropped off as the season progressed.

At the world championships, Simbine still turned in a creditable fifth place in the 100m final but battled with a niggling hip injury in the build-up.

Prinsloo believes had he been with his charge during this time, they would have been able to make the necessary changes to get Simbine back in tip-top shape.

“I think this year would have been different if I had coached full time a year ago, I believe the world champs would have worked out differently,” Prinsloo said.

“Akani was away for a long period of time without me being by his side but this now allows me to travel with him, like Wayde (van Nierkerk) and Tannie Ans (Botha), who tours with him and gives him that comfort.”

With more time on his hands to dedicate to his passion, Prinsloo will not only improve his knowledge of the sport but he is also looking to host training camps for up-and-coming coaches and athletes. Prinsloo was also looking forward to working with top American sprinting coach Lance Brauman, who coached the likes of Wallace Spearman and Tyson Gay.

“Adidas said that Akani and I can go work with Lance Brauman for some time, so we will make sure we get to him,” he said.

Simbine has emerged as one of the country’s most exciting and promising track athletes and one can only hope that, with Prinsloo’s attention fully focussed on the young sprinter, he will live up to his immense talent.

The Star

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