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SA ELITE CONVERGE ON STELLENBOSCH - All Athletics

SA ELITE CONVERGE ON STELLENBOSCH

 
Updated: April 16, 2015

Akani Simbine (photo credit: Reg Caldecott)

South African athletics is set for a feast of action in Stellenbosch over the next few days, with the SA Senior Championships taking place at Coetzenburg on Friday and Saturday, and the second leg of the Varsity Athletics series being held on Monday night.
The nation’s top sprinters are expected to steal the show at the national championships, with the likes of Akani Simbine, Anaso Jobodwana and Carina Horn set to shine, after displaying fine form in the early stages of the season.
Simbine, who has clocked wind-aided 100m times of 10.04 and 10.09 this year, and a legal time of 10.09, was being tipped to become the second South African to break the 10-second barrier.
The 21-year-old speedster set his personal best of 10.02 at last year’s national championships, behind Simon Magakwe’s historic 9.98 victory in Pretoria.
With Magakwe, who won the SA 100m title the last six years in a row, being banned for two years after evading anti-doping officials, Simbine was set to line up as the firm favourite to bag the SA crown in the short-sprint event.
He was not getting ahead of himself, however, with a number of rising sprint stars hoping to steal the limelight.
A new SA record seemed inevitable at some point this season, but Simbine said he was keeping his feet on the ground.
“I am still young, which means that I still have time on my hands to reach this goal,” said Simbine, a product of the High Performance Centre.
“My main goal for this year actually is to just break that 10-second barrier, but I feel like it is a bit too soon to break it because we only just started on our maximum speed work.
“Once that kicks into my body then I think I can do the sub 10.”
Anaso Jobodwana, meanwhile, will headline the men’s 200m event at the national championships, after the US-based athlete arrived in the country on Monday to compete on home soil for the first time since 2010.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve been working with my coach on putting together better race plans, and it helps going into the SA champs knowing I’m starting to get that right,” he said.
The 22-year-old Jobodwana, who set a wind-aided time of 19.87 in Texas last month, was expected to challenge Morne Nagel’s national 200m record of 20.11 set in 2001.
With a wealth of experience behind him, however, including two World Student Games gold medals, the Olympic and World Championships finalist was concentrating more on victory than a lightning fast time in a rare home appearance.
“I know it’s going to be a hard race, which is exciting,” Jobodwana said.
“I’m not really looking at anybody because I know I have to bring my best regardless, so I’m just focussing on running well.”
Meanwhile, like Simbine, Caster Semenya had a long weekend of racing planned, as she was set to turn out at the SA Championships and the Varsity Athletics meeting.
The middle-distance specialist, who won the world 800m title in 2009, said she hoped to take another step in an attempt to regain her best form after a disappointing 2014 campaign.
Under new coach Jean Verster, she was taking a cautious approach.
“I just want to achieve my best performance on the day, particularly now that my injuries are behind me,” she said.
“Most of all I want to entertain people, for excitement, and to have fun.”
The national championships will kick off with a highly anticipated men’s 10 000m final on Friday morning, with Elroy Gelant and Simon Magakwe reportedly chasing personal bests.
The nation’s most accomplished athletes across a variety of disciplines were also expected to showcase their talents at the two-day event, including SA 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk, middle-distance stars Johan Cronje and Andre Olivier, one-lap hurdler LJ van Zyl, long jumpers Khotso Mokoena and Zarck Visser and two-time Commonwealth Games javelin throw champion Sunette Viljoen.