World Relays win a step forward, but hard work ahead for Team SA, warns coach Paul Gorries
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CAPE TOWN - The support from across South Africa has been awesome, but don't get too excited right now for the Tokyo Olympics.
That was the word of caution from national relays coach Paul Gorries, following Team SA's dramatic gold medal in the 4x100m at the World Athletics Relays in Poland on Sunday night.
Akani Simbine produced a terrific run in the anchor leg to claim gold in 38.71 seconds, which was initially just one-hundredth of a second ahead of Brazil – the South Americans were later disqualified.
But Gorries told Independent Media yesterday, having arrived back in SA, that the 2019 world championship experience in Doha will ensure that the team will be firmly grounded about their medal hopes in Tokyo later this year.
Two years ago, SA produced a national record in the 4x100m relay semi-final in 37.65, and the euphoria of that performance caught up with them in the final, where a poor baton exchange saw them finish fifth in 37.73 – the United States won in 37.10.
In Poland last weekend, the US, Jamaica, Great Britain, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago were among the nations who had withdrawn due to Covid-19 travel protocols, so Gorries is fully aware that the Tokyo Games will be a much tougher test.
“In Doha, as much as the semi-final was a good run, when it came to the final, it was the complete opposite,” Gorries said.
“The first exchange was excellent, but we got it wrong in the second, and it was just too much work for AK (Simbine) to come back.
“I'm happy for the guys (to win the World Athletics Relays).
“It's a step in the right direction, but it's only that, as far as I am concerned. We have a lot of work to do. I don't want people to get too excited about it, and then we get to Tokyo … and then what (if they don't win)?
“On the record, I think we can definitely medal (at the Olympics), but a lot of things will have to go our way. We will need the right preparation, right combination. The guys have to be fresh. I don't like to make predictions. I saw what pressure, what happened in Doha – how we got carried away after the semi-final.”
Now it's about fine-tuning their performances over the next few months before heading to Japan.