Cape Town — Shaun Maswanganyi understood the enormity of his achievement as he ran faster than two former world record-holders, Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell, in setting a new 100m personal best at the US college championships on Friday night.
The 22-year-old South African sprinter, competing for the University of Houston at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas, claimed a bronze medal in the 100m final and finished sixth in the 200m decider.
Maswanganyi — who reached the semi-finals in both events at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 — produced the run of his life in the 100m on Friday to finish third in 9.91 seconds, improving his previous mark of 9.99 that he had set in Wednesday’s semi-final.
The St Alban’s College of Pretoria protégé made a great start out of the blocks from lane three in the final, bursting into the lead and staying in top spot for most of the race.
But with about 20 metres to go, some of his rivals got closer to him, and within the last 10 metres, Nigeria’s Godson Oghenebrume and American Courtney Lindsey edged ahead.
Texas Tech senior Lindsey dipped on the line to snatch the gold medal in a personal best of 9.89, followed by Louisiana State University’s Oghenebrume in 9.90 and Maswanganyi.
The 9.91 time by Maswanganyi was also a new University of Houston record, surpassing Cameron Burrell’s 9.93 in 2017 and his father Leroy’s 9.94 from 1990, while Lewis’ college best was 10.00 in 1981.
Both men have coached Maswanganyi at Houston, with Leroy Burrell — who’s 100m world record stood at 9.85 — being in charge of the school’s athletic programme previously, while Lewis (9.86 personal best) is the current head coach.
Maswanganyi’s 9.91 time is the second-fastest 100m by a South African, behind record-holder Akani Simbine (9.84) and ahead of Wayde van Niekerk (9.94), Gift Leotlela (9.94), Thando Roto (9.95), Henricho Bruintjies (9.97) and Simon Magakwe (9.98).
It was far tougher in the 200m final, though, which was run about 45 minutes later, with Maswanganyi — running in lane four — coming out of the bend in fifth place, and finishing sixth in 20.07.
Another Nigerian, Udodi Onwuzurike of Stanford University, won the title in a superb time of 19.84, followed by Lindsey in 19.86 and Terrence Jones of Texas Tech took the bronze in 19.87.
“9.91, man! I can’t even explain, honestly! That’s the school record for me, and it’s legal. Just thinking about it, Coach Carl went through the programme, Leroy went through the programme, and they didn’t run that fast in college,” Maswanganyi said in an interview with US media outlet Citius Mag.
“Coach Carl gave me a lot of congratulations, and he was pretty pleased with my hundred because I executed it, but just leaned too early, which cost me the last five metres. But all good with the execution.
“In the 200, my legs were dead, I’m not gonna lie! I came into the competition and set a PR (personal record) by almost 0.2 (in the semi-finals), so my legs were dead.
“But that’s the game — they had the same competitions. I want to complain, but at the end of the day, I’m like, it’s not my day. But I’m just happy to come out with a PR again, and it’s been a great competition. It’s a rivalry, and I loved it.
“At the end of the day dude, they tune in to watch me run! That’s the reality of it… It’s the love of the sport. So, I hope you enjoyed it. At the end of the day, I lost the 100 by six inches (about 15cm) – that’s how close it was.
“No showboating today, but it’s the name of the game, and I loved it.”
But Maswanganyi can be delighted with his form at the moment, as he had also set a new 200m personal best of 19.99 in the semi-finals, which has seen qualify for the world championships in Budapest in August in both short sprint events.
“I’m excited. It’s been a great college season for me, and one of my healthiest college seasons. I finish off strongly with PRs, both indoor and outdoor, and in the 100 and 200,” he said.
“So, still more to work on, and I’m thinking about coming back — we don’t know! We’ll see… They’re (rivals) are going pro, so we’ll see.”