JOHANNESBURG – Akani Simbine hopes to become the first South African male sprinter to claim the 100m title at an Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 and not a stone is being left unturned in his pursuit of that dream.
Telecommunications company Liquid Telecom yesterday confirmed a three-year deal worth R8million which will also support Simbine’s coach Werner Prinsloo.
At the Rio Games, Simbine became the first SA male sprinter since Danie Joubert at Los Angeles 1932 to reach the final of the 100m dash at the Olympics. Just like Joubert, he finished fifth.
It was reported last October that Liquid Telecom had made it possible for Prinsloo to quit his job in IT sales to focus all his attention on the 100m national record-holder.
“It is an exciting time for me to have my coach with me full time where in the past he was with me two weeks before major competitions,” Simbine said. “Now we have the opportunity for him to go over with me and do sessions where we can see where I am lacking and improve on that.”
Simbine, who also featured in the 100m finals at the 2017 world championships, said having Prinsloo on tour would help iron out technical issues he may be battling with.
“It’s a lot of self-doubt and confusion and sometimes you believe you’re doing the right thing and sometimes it feels like you’re actually moving and other times it feels like 'nah it’s not going right’,” Simbine said. “Now he can be there, see that and fix what needs to be fixed.”
Simbine's 2017 season suffered because he had to train without Prinsloo for a large part of the European summer going into the world championships in London.
His performances dropped as the season progressed with the gains from the hard work they had put into his starts in 2016 seemingly going to waste.
In London, Simbine still turned in a creditable fifth place result, having battled with a niggling hip injury in the build-up.
Prinsloo said the goal was to get Simbine, who boasts the national record of 9.89 seconds, to a level where he consistently runs 9.8-second times and even faster to make him a true medal contender. To do that they will return to what worked well in 2016 when he posted the national record that was that year's fifth fastest time.
“In the season leading up to 2016 we focused a lot on his starts because we knew that’s going to be the critical point if he wants to get in with the big boys,” Prinsloo said. “So, I’m sort of going back to that sort of thinking, making sure he consistently has good starts in every race.”