JOHANNESBURG - Launching himself into fifth place on the South African 200m all-time list, US-based sprinter Ncincilili Titi stopped just short of dipping below 20 seconds over the weekend.
He set a University of South Carolina record in state capital Columbia, clocking 20.00 seconds and shaving 0.14sec off his previous best.
“I’ve been chasing it (sub-20sec) for a while and I have been steadily pursuing it and I’ve been able to chip away at it consistently,” Titi said.
“I'm not there yet and the difference between 20-flat and 19.99 is so minute but I will keep chasing that.”
Butterworth, Eastern Cape-born Titi has been threatening to break through the last couple of years but has been stunted by injury and a jam-packed collegiate programme.
He is finally coming into his own in his last year for the South Carolina Gamecocks, with a few changes in training making the difference.
While Titi is a free agent after June, he will only be graduating with a degree in Public Health at the end of the year.
Titi and 2015 world 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana both went to Selborne College in East London, matriculating a year apart.
He won the 2014 SA 200m title and took Jobodwana’s place at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where he was part of the 4x100m relay team that set a national record.
His progress has been relatively slow compared to the rate at which SA-based sprinters have been performing in recent years.
“There have definitely been some tough times since the Commonwealth Games; the two years making the transition to the US was pretty difficult for me,” Titi said.
Here's a better video! 20:00 (+1.9) NCAA Leading time and No 3 time in the world! Still trying to process it all. By processing, I don't mean the time that I ran, but how much more I have in store. It's not like things were all peachy or smooth in the weeks and days leading up to the race, yet my legs were still able to pull of such a good time. As agonizingly close as I was, I still have yet to "break the sub20 barrier" 🤦🏽♂️😅 so I have work to do!! 💪🏽💪🏽
A post shared by Ncincilili Titi (@geez_mix) on
“But since last season I’ve made some changes and it has been getting better since.”
Titi is in the best form of his life, first breaking Morne Nagel’s 16-year-old SA indoor 200m best in January when he clocked 20.45sec.
Earlier this month he clocked a new 100m personal best in Knoxville with a time of 10.19 to knock 0.1sec off his previous PB.
Titi was surprised when former SA great Zola Budd congratulated him on his super run at the weekend.
“We exchanged contact numbers. She is very friendly and for all that she has done, she is so humble,” Titi said about meeting Budd.
“She wants us to meet up and share that South African spirit and maybe have a braai which would be nice.
“It was definitely nice seeing her, she congratulated me after the race, which is great to not only have someone from South Africa congratulating me but Zola Budd which was pretty nice.”
Titi was chomping at the bit to race on home soil again and said he would make a point of participating in next year’s Grand Prix Series.
“I can start going to South African champs and go and do the Athletix Grand Prix Series,” Titi said.
“I watch and I think there are some great things happening both in terms of competition and athlete development.
“There are some diamonds in the rough and what is happening now is a big boost for SA athletics.”