No Wayde van Niekerk, but Shaun Maswanganyi bolsters SA 4x100m relay team
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CAPE TOWN – Wayde van Niekerk won’t be part of the squad, but Shaun Maswanganyi will bolster the South African men’s 4x100m relay team for their first round heat at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
SA relays coach Paul Gorries confirmed to IOL Sport from Tokyo on Wednesday that Van Niekerk – who it was understood was considering making himself available for the 4x100m relay after he fell out of the 400m in the semi-finals – will not line up on the track for heat one at 4.30am SA time on Thursday.
Van Niekerk may instead participate in the 4x400m relay heat two, which takes place on Friday (1.37pm SA time).
There was a gap in the 4x100m relay team after Gift Leotlela suffered a torn hamstring in his 100m semi-final on Sunday.
The 23-year-old was a key part of the squad that won gold at the World Relays in Poland in May, and he is the second-quickest South African this year with a time of 9.94 seconds – behind Akani Simbine (9.84), who finished fourth in Sunday’s 100m final in 9.93.
Gorries explained that Leotlela’s place has been taken by Chederick van Wyk, a 26-year-old from Prieska who captains the North West University athletics squad.
Van Wyk has a personal best 100m time of 10.18 seconds that he ran in 2018, but he did produce a time of 10.22 in May this year – as well as a wind-assisted 10.16 at the SA championships in April.
While Maswanganyi was part of the relay squad previously as he is based at the University of Houston in the United States, the 20-year-old was able to join the group in Gemona, Italy last month, where he was able to work with the squad, having already qualified in the 100m and 200m for the Olympics.
He made it to the semi-finals in both events, placing 14th overall in the 100m with a best time of 10.10 and 10th in the 200m (20.18).
“Gift is a big loss. Shaun was with us in Gemona, so yeah, he is good to go,” Gorries said.
The other member of the quartet for Thursday is Clarence Munyai, the SA 200m record-holder who ran 20.59 seconds in his semi-final earlier in the week.
South Africa have managed to avoid favourites the United States and Canada in their heat, with the Americans boasting three of the top five 100m athletes this year in Trayvon Bromell, Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley – who claimed the silver medal on Sunday in 9.84 – while Andre de Grasse took the bronze in 9.89 and gold in the 200m.
He will head up Canada’s team, which also includes 200m finalist Aaron Brown.
But that doesn’t mean Simbine and Co will make the final easily. Only the first three teams will attain automatic qualification, with the two ‘fastest losers’ across the two heats also advancing.
South Africa are in lane seven, but will be seriously tested by Great Britain (whose top runners are Zharnel Hughes and Chijindu Ujah), Jamaica (Yohan Blake, Rasheed Dwyer and Oblique Seville) and hosts Japan.
“We have a tough heat, but it’s the Olympics – nothing is going to be easy. It’s all about execution,” was all Gorries was prepared to say on Wednesday.
He will hope that his team does the talking on the track…
Men’s 4x100m relay
Qualification rules: First three in each heat and the next two fastest advance to the final
Heat 1: 4.30am SA time
Lane 2: Brazil
Lane 3: Great Britain
Lane 4: Japan
Lane 5: Jamaica
Lane 6: Netherlands
Lane 7: South Africa – Chederick van Wyk, Clarence Munyai, Shaun Maswanganyi, Akani Simbine
Lane 8: Trinidad and Tobago
Lane 9: France
Heat 2: 4.39am SA time
Lane 2: Turkey
Lane 3: United States
Lane 4: China
Lane 5: Italy
Lane 6: Germany
Lane 7: Denmark
Lane 8: Ghana
Lane 9: Canada
Final: Friday 6 August, 3.50pm SA time