Dariusz Kowaluk of Poland, Lythe Pillay of South Africa and Rikuya Ito of Japan in action. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
Dariusz Kowaluk of Poland, Lythe Pillay of South Africa and Rikuya Ito of Japan in action. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Teenager Lythe Pillay savours Olympic experience

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Aug 7, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - He is still only 18 and in matric, but Lythe Pillay was thrilled after competing in his first Olympic Games in Tokyo yesterday.

It was a disappointing outing for Team South Africa in the men’s 4x400m relay, as even a season’s best was not good enough to advance to today’s final.

With 400m world recordholder Wayde van Niekerk missing from the line-up – after the defence of his title ended in the semi-finals earlier in the week – it was left to Pillay, SA champion Zakithi Nene, veteran Ranti Dikgale and the experienced Thapelo Phora to carry the can in the second heat yesterday.

It was Pillay, the deputy head boy at King Edward VII in Johannesburg, who got SA off to the best possible start in the first leg, running a solid time of 45.72 seconds.

He raced into an early lead and maintained his advantage over the first 350m, but couldn’t keep up his speed all the way to the changeover with Nene, which saw South Africa in sixth position.

Nene clocked 45.51 in his 400m split, but Poland’s Karel Zalewski opened up a sizeable gap to put his team into the lead, with SA seventh.

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Dikgale also ran a sub46 second time (45.96) and Phora stormed to a 43.99 split in the final leg, which was the second-fastest, but South Africa finished seventh in 3:01.18 – their best time of 2021.

It was an experience Pillay will never forget. “Our intention was to make the final when we came here. We ran our best, and we worked as a team, and at least we bettered our (best) time from the World Relays (which was 3:03.79). It’s something to look up to, but we still have quite a bit of improvement to do,” he said.

“It’s the Olympics! I mean, whenever I compete, I do it for that 10-year-old boy that I was back in primary school. I never thought this was possible, and I wouldn’t have seen this happening so soon – especially now that I am 18.

“Being here already brought me a lot closer to my teammates. I was fortunate enough to travel, and this is me paying honour to all those who supported me – my teammates, my school, the boys at the hostel I am in charge of. My coach, my family, my friends and everyone who supported me.

“We all came here to run our best, and we did that. What makes it a little bit more exciting for the future is that we know we can improve.”

Next up for Pillay is the World Under 20 Athletics Championships in Nairobi from August 17-22.

@AshfakMohamed

IOL Sport

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