CAPE TOWN - South Africa has a new sprint sensation: Shaun Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi.
Well, he is not so new to the local athletics scene, having been a junior African champion, but the 20-year-old from Soweto made everybody sit up and take notice after a couple of sparkling performances in Tampa, Florida on Sunday night.
Running for the University of Houston Cougars in The American Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Maswanganyi – who attended St Alban’s College in Pretoria – blitzed the field in the 100m final, stopping the clock at 9.87 seconds.
That would have been a new South African senior record (with the current mark at 9.89), but unfortunately for Maswanganyi, the wind-reading was an ‘illegal’ 3.8 metres per second (m/s).
He ran another superb time in the 200m final a few minutes later, winning the gold medal in 19.93 seconds – but again, the wind dashed his hopes of Olympic qualification at 3.3m/s.
9⃣.8⃣7⃣‼️— American XC Track (@AmericanXCTrack) May 16, 2021
WE HAVE NO WORDS FOR WHAT WE JUST SAW SHAUN MASWANGANYI DO. pic.twitter.com/SW6WJjAtYD
In both events, he broke the meeting and stadium record, and was chosen as the American Freshman of the Year afterwards.
Maswanganyi joins current SA 100m record-holder Akani Simbine in having had a new personal best ruled out due to a strong wind – Simbine produced a sizzling 9.82 at the national championships in Pretoria last month, but that was also not recognised.
Unfortunately for Maswanganyi, his efforts have not led to a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics just yet. His 100m personal best of 10.06, which he ran in Pretoria last year, is just one-hundredth of a second outside the qualifying mark of 10.05. He finished with a 10.04 in Houston earlier this month, but the wind-reading was +2.8m/s, beyond the legal limit of 2.0m/s.
He also did a 10.05 in Tampa at the weekend in a 100m heat, but the wind was 2.4m/s.
In the 200m, his personal best of 20.31 is outside the Olympic standard of 20.24 – he was again undone by the wind earlier this month when he clocked 20.14, and now his 19.93 time on Sunday also won’t count.
But with further college events coming up, and perhaps an international season, Maswanganyi has more than enough time to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in both events, as well as push for a spot in the SA 4x100m relay squad.
And having two sprinting legends as his coaches at the University of Houston (UH), Americans Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis, will certainly help him on that mission.
“The most important process for me was trusting my coaches and my teammates. My teammates were the ones who pushed me through… With the help of my teammates, the dynamics we have and pretty much how everyone worked together with the training staff, everything just kind of fell into place as the months progressed,” Maswanganyi was quoted as saying on Twitter by the UH website and student newspaper Daily Cougar’s sports editor, James Mueller.
“They call us speed city for a reason. I owe most of my success to my coaches and my teammates because they pushed me a lot. They were there for me. At some meets, I didn’t perform the way I wanted to, but they were always there to motivate me.”
Maswanganyi’s performances played a big part in the men’s Cougar team winning the overall title, while the women’s squad also took the honours in their division.