Gatlin avoiding Simbine at the Athletix Grand Prix at Tuks
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PRETORIA – The South African 100m champion, Akani Simbine, will not race against American Justin Gatlin at the Athletix Grand Prix Series at the Tuks Stadium on March 8.
It is rumoured that the world champion specifically requested to race over 150 metres so as not to have to face the Tuks Athlete so early in the season. At last year’s first Diamond League Meeting in Doha. Simbine out-sprinted Gatlin to win in 9.99 seconds.
Acquiring the star power of Gatlin, the 100m world champion, for a meeting in South Africa would have been seen as a massive boost for the sport. However, with Gatlin racing the unfamiliar 150m event it is an anti-climax with Simbine competing in the flagship 100m race.
Werner Prinsloo (Simbine’s coach) is not concerned about his athlete not having the chance to race Gatlin on his home track.
“We are not going to waste time thinking about what could have been,” said Prinsloo.
“Akani will compete in the 100m at the Grand Prix-meeting as it is the distance in which he has set himself three major goals for the season. He wants to medal at the Commonwealth Games and the African Championships and set a new African record over 100 metres. It means he will need to dip below 9.85. If he wins at the African Championships, he will also get to compete at the Continental Cup.”
SA's Akani Simbine won't be racing against Justin Gatlin in Pretoria Photo: Reg Caldecott
Prinsloo said he had not made any serious changes tp Simbine’s training program.
“In the past, we specifically focussed on making sure that Akani is faster out of the starting blocks as he tended to lose out over the first 20 metres in major races. That is no longer a problem. If Akani has a good start, there are very few sprinters who will be able to beat him.
“At the moment it is all about marginal gains for him to become a consistent sub 9.90 sprinter. So we are working on a few small things in his technique. The nice thing about it not being an Olympic or World Championships year is that we can afford to experiment a bit to see what works and what does not.”
Clarence Munyai is another of the top Tuks sprinters who won’t race Gatlin. According to his coach, Hennie Kriel, he is also going to race the 100 metres.
Last year Munyai set a junior world’s best over the 300 metres running 31.6s in Ostrava. He also set a new South African junior 200m record running 20.10 and won gold at the African Junior Championships in Algeria.
Thando Roto (TuksAthletics) who ran 9.95 last year and won a silver medal at the World Student Games is still recovering from an injury.