World Relays, then Olympic double in Akani Simbine’s sights
CAPE TOWN - Only four men have won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the same Olympic Games – Jesse Owens (1936), Bobby Morrow (1956), Carl Lewis (1984) and Usain Bolt (2008, 2012 and 2016).
But there is a South African who could join that illustrious group at the Tokyo Olympics later this year: Akani Simbine.
The 27-year-old sprinter is one of the main medal contenders for the 100m, where he will look to go a few steps further than at Rio 2016, where he ended fifth in 9.94 seconds.
His recent wind-assisted time of 9.82 at the national championships may not have gone into the record books, but he said at the time that it has given him extra confidence as the “time is in the legs”.
As for the 200m, it is an event that the Pretoria-based athlete enjoys, but one that his coach Werner Prinsloo has been cautious about up to now.
Simbine's best time of 19.95 came in 2017, and would have been good enough for gold at that year's world championships, where Turkey's Ramil Guliyev won in 20.09, ahead of Wayde van Niekerk in 20.11.
Simbine produced a solid run in a 200m race last month, clocking 20.29 to end second behind Van Niekerk, who won with 20.10.
“I know in his mind, he wants to double.
“I said to him if he runs good times in the 200, then yes, for sure. But we cannot change our focus for the 100,” Prinsloo told Independent Media ahead of the World Relays, which takes place in Poland this weekend.
“But if it works out that way, that Athletics SA selects him for the 200, then for sure, yes – he can double. I know it's more of a secondary event, so the pressure is not really there.
“He is only doing it for himself, for his own validation to run a good 200.
“I will not hold him back if the opportunity comes up to double at the Olympics.
“It will be possible at the Olympics, as there are a few guys who will double.
“The 100 is done after the first two days, and then the 200 starts.”
On that 9.82, Prinsloo added: “It's just a pity about the wind, but it's fine.
“We don't want to push it so early on in the season anyway.”
But first up is the World Relays, which will be held in Silesia, Poland on Saturday and Sunday.
Team SA, coached by Paul Gorries, began their journey yesterday, and will push for a medal in the men's 4x100m, while they will also aim to qualify for the Olympics in the 4x400m, while there is a mixed 4x400m event as well.
Team SA have already qualified for Tokyo in the 4x100m, where a medal is also a possibility.
Beyond that, Prinsloo said that Simbine will return home before travelling to Gemona, Italy for the international season, where he will try to run a few 200m races too.