Tukshpc sprint duo Akani Simbine and Gift Leotlela proved undoubtedly that they are the ‘golden boys’ of South African sprinting at the weekend by winning gold medals at the South African Student Championships and the African Youth Championships.
Actually Simbine again showed that the question is no longer whether he is good enough to break 10 seconds over 100 metres but rather when he will do so. He won the 100m in Stellenbosch at the in a time of 10.09sec. This is the fastest time ever run by a local sprinter at sea level.
‘I feel really good after running the 10.09. Going through the heats and semi-finals I didn’t feel very confident because I was struggling to get out of the blocks. Luckily it all came together in the final, which is when it really mattered. It means a lot to me that I was able to run the time I did, because it shows that I am on the right track to achieve my goals,’ Simbine said.
The 22-year-old athlete is undoubtedly one the most consistent performers so far this season. He ran wind-assisted times of 10.04 and 10.06 and a legal time of 10.09, but he still seems to need that extra little ‘bolt of lightning’ to super-charge his batteries and enable him to break 10 seconds.
Maybe this will happen on 26 May in Ostrava when Simbine will get his first opportunity to face Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt in the 100m. Simbine has also received invites to run in New York and Rome.
The 16-year-old Leotlela, pictured above, is the new kid on the South African sprinters block, but if his results so far this season are anything to go by he might just be the next real deal.
He won three gold medals (100m, 200m and 4times100-relay) at the African Youth Championships in Mauritius over the past weekend.
His winning time of 10.38 in the 100m is only 0.02sec slower than the South African record of 10.36 set by Leigh Julius in 2002. In Mauritius Leotlela won the 200m in 20.84.
At the moment Leotlela is the fastest youth sprinter (U-17) in the world with times of 10.38 in the 100 and 20.63 in the 200. His times compare favourably with those run by senior South African sprinters this season. In the 100 only Simbine (10.09) has been able to run a faster time. As far as the 200 is concerned Simbine (20.27) and Roscoe Engel (20.60) were the only athletes who ran faster times than the South African youth record (20.63) set by Leotlela.
There are countless examples in South Africa’s athletics history of talented young sprinters who were burned-out by overzealous coaches and administrators who tried to fast track them.
But coach, Hennie Kriel is on record saying that he would do his utmost to prevent the same from happening to Leotlela. ‘I have no doubt that Gift has the ability to become one of the greats of South African, and even international, athletics if he is properly managed.’
But for now Leotlela’s only goal is to win a medal for South Africa at the World Youth Athletics Championships (15-19 July) in Cali, Colombia and to have fun while doing so.
When Leotlela talks about athletics it is obvious that he relishes his quest for speed.
Source : South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee