Akani Simbine celebrates after winning the men's 100 metres in Rome. Picture: Alberto Lingria/Reuters
Akani Simbine celebrates after winning the men's 100 metres in Rome. Picture: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

’Stupid-crazy Covid year’ hasn’t stopped Akani Simbini’s march to Olympics

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Sep 21, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - They say that when you become a year older, you become a year wiser.

In some ways, Akani Simbine may regard 2020 as a bit of a waste considering that he was ready to take aim at an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this year.

Covid-19 put that prospect on the back-burner until 2021, with the 100m final set for August 1.

But Simbine, who turns 27 on Monday, has had a chance to fine-tune his technique and approach over the last few weeks in Europe, and it is a trip that his coach Werner Prinsloo believes has been valuable in the build-up to Japan.

Last Thursday’s victory at the Rome Diamond League, in 9.96 seconds - his fourth in a row on this sojourn - was his quickest of the lot, following times of 10.19, 10.17 and 10.02sec in France (Marseille), Italy (Rovereto) and Switzerland (Bellinzona) respectively.

But the manner in which he executed his race at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on Thursday night would’ve pleased him and Prinsloo no end.

Simbine made a smoother start than in his last race, which allowed him to get into his stride quicker. He came under serious pressure from the Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cissé, who sped out of the blocks and held the lead until about 15 metres from the finish line.

That is when the South African edged ahead, and he dipped on the line to complete his international season in style.

“I executed this race really well. The last two races I struggled with my start, but not here in Rome. Finishing my season like this is great,” the Commonwealth Games champion told the Diamond League website.

“This Covid year was stupid-crazy for me. We stopped training on track in March, and I only got back on track in Europe. So, I always hoped to get into races. We had to leave South Africa on an evacuation flight mid-August.

“When I go back home now, I will not be go on holiday because I will have to quarantine for two weeks. And after that, I will start to train again.”

The 9.96 was short of his season’s best of 9.91, as well as his quickest ever mark of 9.89, which is also the SA record.

That is why his coach Prinsloo sounded a word of caution afterwards, although he is confident that Simbine will be primed for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I guess we need to be realistic. 2020 will always be remembered as the year in which everything changed. 9.96 seconds is a fast time. It will win you a lot of races, but not in the Diamond League. It should be remembered that very few sprinters of the USA and Jamaica are competing in the Diamond League,” Prinsloo said in a Tuks Sport statement.

“In Rome, I think he ran one of his best races.

“He had a good start and managed to dominate from then on. Over the second 50 metres, he increased his lead with each stride.”

@ashfakmohamed

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