Cape Town – Shaun Maswanganyi has competed at an Olympic Games and was a junior African champion already in his short career, but he produced two of his finest performances in Austin, Texas on Wednesday night.
Running at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Outdoor Championships, the 22-year-old South African sprinter set two new personal bests in the 100m and 200m.
And the University of Houston athlete did it within an hour of each other, posting 9.99 seconds and 19.99 to break through the sub-10 and sub-20 barriers for the first time.
The 9.99 time was the fourth-quickest in his team’s history, as he moved ahead of his Houston coach, former US great Carl Lewis, who ran 10.00 in 1981, and his 19.99 was third-fastest 200m mark for the Cougars.
In addition, it ensured that he qualified for the world championships in Budapest in August.
“It’s long overdue, honestly, because I ran 19 twice – wind-aided. I ran sub-10 twice – wind-aided. So, to just come out today, and both qualifications for world champs, it’s good in my books… I’m happy about that,” Maswanganyi said in an interview trackside with US media outlet Citius Mag.
The young speedster, who hails from Soweto and attended St Alban’s College in Pretoria, had previous bests of 10.04 and 20.10 in the 100m and 200m respectively, but will have his work cut out to claim a podium spot in Friday’s finals.
Maswanganyi’s 9.99 effort was the fifth fastest across the 100m semi-finals, with PJ Austin of Florida clocking a sizzling 9.89, followed by Nigeria’s Godson Oghenebrume (9.93), another Nigerian in Favour Ashe (9.96) and Cole Beck (9.97).
It’s a similar situation in the 200m, where the South African’s 19.99 placed him sixth, behind Nigerian Udodi Onwuzurike of Stanford’s blistering 19.76, Courtney Lindsay (19.88), Uganda’s Tarsis Orogot (19.94), Robert Gregory (19.95) and Javonte Harding (19.98).
But having reached the 100m and 200m semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Maswanganyi believes he still has a chance in the NCAA finals.
“At the end of the day, we came here to show out, and you know, I’m going to bring the hype, I am going to bring the competition,” he said in an ever-noticeable Houston drawl.
“To get stared down twice is crazy to me! But it’s part of the game because I’ve done it to them before… I just know that in the final, I have to bring my A game.
“It’s going to be hype – the crowd’s going crazy already… I can’t imagine Friday! We are going to turn out, I can tell you that, we are going to turn out.
“All I can say is, stay tuned! I only gonna say one phrase: talk soon!
“I am a showman – I live for it, I die for it. When I step on that line, I step on the line to entertain the crowd. I do it for me and my family, and I am sure they do the same thing – just to have that hype.
“You don’t know who’s going to take the final at the end of the day – that’s what builds the hype in the sport towards the final.
“I bet on me! Always, always! All money in, all money in! But it’s straight business. I don’t take it personal (finger-pointing at the finish line), and I just think it’s part of the game.”
Another South African in action on Wednesday was pole-vaulter Kyle Rademeyer of the University of South Alabama, who claimed the gold medal with a height of 5.70m.
Rademeyer set a recent personal best of 5.82m, which qualified him for the world championships as well.