CAPE TOWN – Shaun Maswanganyi gave it his all, but the 20-year-old just fell short of reaching the 200m final at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.
The University of Houston sprinter, who reached the 100m semi-final on Sunday, was one of three South Africans in the 200m semi-finals on Tuesday – along with Clarence Munyai and Anaso Jobodwana.
And it was the youngest of the trio, Maswanganyi, who came closest to clinching a spot in the decider.
The former Tuks junior athlete was drawn in the third semi-final, which turned out to be the fastest on the day, where Canada’s Andre de Grasse and American Kenny Bednarek were the favourites.
Maswanganyi made an impressive start from lane eight, staying with leader De Grasse – who was in lane nine – until the bend.
That was when Bednarek pushed to the front ahead of the Canadian star, and he was soon followed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards and former world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey.
Maswanganyi kept on going hard in the final 50 metres, but the two North Americans jolted away from the rest of the field in the closing stages.
De Grasse even had time to look at Bednarek to his left before the finish line, winning in a superb 19.73 seconds – the fastest time of all three semi-finals – and he is the sure favourite in Wednesday’s final (2.55pm SA time).
Bednarek jogged home in 19.83, with only the first two of each race guaranteed a spot in the final.
Maswanganyi dipped on the line, but was unable to beat Richards (20.10) for third spot, ending fourth in 20.18.
That was quite some distance off his personal best of 20.10 from earlier this year, which would have equalled Richards’ time.
But it was a gallant effort from the young South African, and he will go into the 4x100m relay event later this week with even greater confidence.
It was a disappointing night for SA 200m record-holder Munyai, though, as he battled to get going in the second semi-final.
Munyai tried to make a comeback after the bend, but that was when world champion Noah Lyles of the United States streaked ahead. Lyles slowed down towards the end, thinking that he was comfortably ahead, but he was caught by Canada’s Aaron Brown and Liberia’s Joseph Farnbulleh on the line.
Brown was handed the victory, with all three athletes credited with a time of 19.99, with Munyai finishing sixth in 20.49 – a season’s best.
Jobodwana – a 2015 world championship bronze medallist – was behind the top runners from the outset in the first semi-final, and faded in the home straight to end eighth and last in 20.88.
But there was finally some joy for Team South Africa on a forgettable day of athletics action as Kyle Blignaut qualified for the men’s shot put final.
After watching teammate Jason van Rooyen miss out in the Group A qualification competition, Blignaut produced a superb throw of 20.97m to finish fifth in Group B, which placed him eighth overall.
Blignaut’s two other throws measured 20.56m and 20.30m, and he will hope to reach the podium in Thursday’s final (4.05am SA time).
200m final qualifiers
Andre de Grasse (Canada) 19.73
Kenny Bednarek (USA) 19.83
Aaron Brown (Canada) 19.99
Joseph Fahnbulleh (Liberia) 19.99
Noah Lyles (USA) 19.99
Erriyon Knighton (USA) 20.02
Jereem Richards (Trinidad and Tobago) 20.10
Rasheed Dwyer (Jamaica) 20.13
200m semi-final 1
1 Erriyon Knighton (USA) 20.02
2 Rasheed Dwyer (Jamaica) 20.13
3 Divine Oduduru (Nigeria) 20.16
4 Joseph Amoah (Ghana) 20.27
5 Femi Ogunode (Qatar) 20.34
6 Eseosa Desalu (Italy) 20.43
7 Zhenye Xie (China) 20.45
8 Anaso Jobodwana (RSA) 20.88
200m semi-final 2
1 Aaron Brown (Canada) 19.99
2 Joseph Fahnbulleh (Liberia) 19.99
3 Noah Lyles (USA) 19.99
4 Yancarlos Martinez (Dominican Republic) 20.24
5 William Reais (Switzerland) 20.44
6 Clarence Munyai (RSA) 20.49
7 Robin Vanderbemden (Belgium) 21.00
DNF: Alonson Edward (Panama)
200m semi-final 3
1 Andre de Grasse (Canada) 19.73
2 Kenny Bednarek (USA) 19.83
3 Jereem Richards (Trinidad and Tobago) 20.10
4 Shaun Maswanganyi (RSA) 20.18
5 Sibusiso Matsenjwa (eSwatini) 20.22
6 Ramil Guliyev (Turkey) 20.31
7 Leon Reid (Ireland) 20.54
8 Taymir Burnet (Netherlands) 20.90