Akani Simbine won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Paul Childs/Reuters via ANA
Akani Simbine won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Paul Childs/Reuters via ANA

Time for Akani Simbine to get back in the fast lane to Tokyo Olympics

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Mar 19, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - It has been a longer than usual wait for South Africa’s top athletes to get into gear for the Tokyo Olympics, but now, it’s time to play.

Athletics South Africa confirmed yesterday that they will be hosting two events, called the ASA Athletix Invitational Meet, in Johannesburg over the next two Tuesdays at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium in Roodepoort, and it’s not a moment too soon for Mzansi’s premier sprinter, Akani Simbine.

The Commonwealth Games champion was ready to explode at the Tokyo Olympics last year already, but Covid-19 pushed the Games back by a year.

Simbine’s coach, Werner Prinsloo, told Independent Media yesterday that his star athlete has been training since November already.

“It’s great to finally get on to the track again in a competitive race.

“There have been some league meetings going in lately, but it’s going to be exciting to see Akani racing once more,” he said.

“He has been working really hard over the last few months, and it’s now time to get going again and work towards Tokyo.”

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Simbine had a fruitful trip to Europe at the end of the last international season, where he won four races in a row, and which included a quick 9.96 seconds time at the Rome Diamond League.

But now the real build-up starts to the 100m heats on July 31, and following fifth-place finishes at the 2016 Rio Games and 2017 World Championships, as well as a fourth spot at the 2019 World Championships, Simbine knows he has the ability to go a few steps further.

To claim a medal in Japan, he might have to break his SA record of 9.89. “At this stage, we don’t know what time he will need to get on to the podium,” Prinsloo said.

“None of the top Americans (Michael Norman topped the 2020 list with 9.86, followed by Trayvon Bromell with 9.90) have run yet this year, and we just don’t know who will be in the mix in Japan. For Akani, it’s about getting into his racing again on Tuesday.

“He will also take part in the national championships (set for April 15-17 at Pilditch Stadium), as well as the World Relays in Poland (May 1-2). After that, we will have to see which invites he gets in Europe (considering the Covid-19 situation), but we do know that the Diamond League events will take place.”

The first scheduled Diamond League date is May 23 in Rabat, Morocco, followed by May 28 in Doha, Qatar before the series heads to Rome in Italy on June 4.

With regards to Tuesday’s Johannesburg event, ASA spokesperson Sifiso Cele told Independent Media that the preliminary entry list is set to be confirmed today, with only Simbine confirming his participation so far of those elite local athletes who have been invited.

The two-hour meeting – which may also feature athletes from the Czech Republic, Latvia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Finland, Egypt, Mozambique and eSwatini, will start at 3pm behind closed doors, with no spectators allowed, but it will be broadcast on SABC and live-streamed on TelkomONE.

@ashfakmohamed

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