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Wayde van Niekerk: ‘SA turning into next Jamaica’ after high standards shown at SA Champs in Potchefstroom

BY MARC JACOBSON - APRIL 26, 2017
Wayde van Niekerk: ‘SA turning into next Jamaica’ after high standards shown at SA Champs in Potchefstroom

A full-seated crowd at the Kenneth McArthur Athletics Stadium in Potchefstroom were entertained to a stellar enterprise at the South African Championships last weekend.

Regarding track athletes, 2016 Rio 400m gold medallist, Wayde van Niekerk, described the South African scene as, “slowly but surely turning into the next Jamaica.”

This comes after paramount showings were displayed in Potchefstroom last weekend, when the depths of SA athletics were tested – especially the nougaty competition van Niekerk had to endure.

"I'm quite excited because the new generation of athletes coming through is very strong. We have great depth," van Niekerk told City Press.

His biggest competition being Akani Simbine, who reclaimed the 100m sprint title he held in Stellenbosch two years ago, with a sub-10 time of 9.95s, bettering the second-placed van Niekerk with a time of 10.04. Ironically, Simbine clocked a faster time in the semis of 9.94s.

Despite winning the 100m sprint gold, Simbine was unable to break his personal and SA record, which he set in Hungary last year with a time of 9.89s.

"I'm pretty happy with the time, but I came here to get back the title I lost last year, so I'm very happy to reclaim my title," Simbine told Athletics South Africa after achieving two sub-10 times in one event, and the fifth of the year.

Van Niekerk just skimped ahead of Thando Roto in the 100m, with his time of 10.04; with Roto acclaiming the third-highest SA 100m time of all time when he clocked 9.95s just a few weeks ago.

National Junior 100m record holder, Gift Leotlela; former national 100m record holder, Henricho Bruintjies; 110m hurdles specialist Antonio Alkana and former 100m champion, Simon Magakwe, who was the first South African sprinter to run 100m in less than 10 seconds in 9.98; all featured in that field.

The 24-year-old Van Niekerk then revenged his 100m defeat to Simbine, winning the 200m sprint with a sub-20 time of 19.90s, just 0.03s behind SA’s all-time highest set by Anaso Jobodwana at the World Championships in 2015.

Jobodwana came second in the 200m at Potchefstroom, while Simbine this time-round slumped by 0.25s to van Niekerk’s first-place finish.

In the 100m women’s sprint, Carina Horn hissed close to SA’s record of 11.06 set by Evette de Klerk in 1990, when she clocked a time of 11.10 in the semis. Horn, however, clocked her personal highest and SA’s two-way highest in 2015, when she tied de Klerk’s record of 11.06.

Unfortunately due to illness, Horn had to pull out of the final showdown, for Alyssa Conley to win the spoils with a time of 11.41.

Olympic gold medallist, Caster Semenya, defended both her 400m and 800m titles, winning both with times of 51.60s and 2:01.03 minutes respectively.

Track performances aside, the talk of the occasion, however went to Olympic silver medallist long jumper, Luvo Manyonga, who broke the eight-year standing SA record and set a new record after leaping 8.65m at Potchefstroom.

Not only did Manyonga set a new SA record, but he broke the previous record twice in the last four weeks when he jumped 8.62m at the Gauteng North Championships a few weeks ago, which his agent, Lee-Roy Newton, has confidence in for nearing the 9m milestone by the end of the season.

“Luvo started his season with a jump of 8.40 metres followed by a jump of 8.62 metres and now at the national championships he jumped 8.65 metres. So, it is clear at this stage that he is ticking all the right ‘boxes’ to jump close to nine metres. I can confidently say he is capable of even going past nine metres,” Newton told SuperSport.

The all-time world record for the long-jump is 8.95m, set by America’s Mike Powell in 1991.    

Image: Akani Simbine (left) and Wayde van Niekerk (right) acknowledging the crowd in the Potchefstroom after their 100m sprint.