Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 127, February 2020 - Page 38

has, yet the so-called ‘big three’ sporting codes or rugby, soccer and cricket take the biggest slice of the talent, funding and resources available. “Athletics is so exciting, has so many possibilities, it should be getting a much bigger slice of that cake, so I want to create opportunities, once I hang up my spikes, to make that happen.” Life Beyond the Track When meeting Akani, one is immediately struck by the calm, relaxed and mature demeanour of South Africa’s number one sprinter. The 26-year-old oozes calm confidence, but when he starts to talk about the future, he soon gets excited, and very animated. “I have plans for when I have finished competing, and I am already working on them.” He says he relishes the responsibility thrust onto him as the fastest man in South Africa. “I am in the fortunate position that I can do this, something which I really love, as a career, so I want to give back, to assist more athletes to see the same opportunities and possibilities. I want them to experience what I am experiencing, and do more and better.” However, Akani does admit to getting frustrated when he sees the amount of athletic talent South Africa 38 For Akani, Tembisa township is an area of personal interest and will be his first target in looking to the next step in his career beyond the racing. “I am from Tembisa. I grew up there and I see what life is like in Tembisa. When I was growing up, schools had sport. That is gone now, and I want to resurrect that, so after the Olympics I will be creating my own foundation and my first project will be to see if I can help get sport back into the schools.” To this end, Akani has already engaged with the MEC, and will be looking at creating events in Tembisa at a later stage. “I want to show the kids in Tembisa that there is a whole wide world out there that they can conquer. They do not need to be stuck in the rut that they currently find themselves in.” The Priority Goal But for now, the focus is very much still on his competitive career, and with his hip flexor issues a thing of the past, Akani is confident that if he can get his top end speed and endurance back, in conjunction with his newfound starting prowess, then he will be a major threat on the world stage in 2020. And winning the gold medal in Tokyo would be a huge step in achieving his dreams beyond his competitive career. * The full names of all the relay team contenders mentioned by Akani are Wayde van Niekerk, Clarence Munyai, Thando Dlodlo, Thando Roto, Simon Magakwe, Gift Leotlela, Anaso Jobodwana, Henricho Bruintjies Akani’s Stats & Honours Personal Bests SA Championships Titles International Honours Sub-10’s for 100m 2013 2014 2014 2014 2015 2015 2016 2016 2016 2017 2018 2018 2018 2018 2018 2019 2019 2019 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 100m 9.89 Székesfehérvár, Hungary 18 July 2016 200m 19.95 Pretoria, South Africa 4 March 2017 Having represented his country on the world stage for the first time in 2013, at the World University Games in Kazan Russia, Akani has gone on to compile a remarkable record of finals performances in his career, with a number of wins and podium finishes. ISSUE 127 FEBRUARY 2020 / World University Games, 4x100m 7 th Commonwealth Games, 100m 5 th Commonwealth Games, 4x100m 4 th African Championships, 100m 8 th World University Games, 100m 1 st World University Games, 4x100m 3 rd Africa Championships, 100m 3 rd Africa Championships, 4x100m 1 st Olympic Games, 100m 5 th World Championships, 100m 5 th Commonwealth Games, 100m 1 st Commonwealth Games, 4x100m 2 nd Africa Championships, 100m 1 st Africa Championships, 4x100m 1 st Continental Cup, 100m 3 rd World Relays, 4x200m 2 nd World Championships, 100m 4 th World Championships, 4x100m 5 th 100m 2015, 2017 200m 2019 Akani has gone under 10 seconds on 24 occasions since he clocked 9.99 in Velenje, Slovenia on 1 July 2015, followed by 9.97 to win the 100m gold medal just one week later at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. 2 sub-10 times (Best of 9.97) 5 sub-10 times (Best of 9.89) 8 sub-10 times (Best of 9.92) 4 sub-10 times (Best of 9.93) 5 sub-10 times (Best of 9.92) 100m World Rankings Since 2015, Akani has never been ranked outside the top 20, and has been inside the top 10 for the last four years. 2015 20 th 2016 5 th 2017 4 th 2018 9 th 2019 6 th much talent here, we should have athletes fighting for their relay spot. There is Wayde when he is fully fit, Clarence, the two Thando’s, Simon, Anaso, Henricho, and Gift who is returning to the track this year from injury. We could field two relay teams with this kind of depth, so we should not be targeting anything less than a gold medal in Tokyo! And if you watch Doha, the finals, Thando Dlodlo was right there with Christian Coleman on the first leg when he handed over to Justin Gatlin. Everyone was going on about Coleman, Coleman, Coleman, but Thando was right there alongside him. I’m telling you, if we get our changeovers right, gold and 36 seconds is on.” * As part of this, Akani says he has plans to become involved in organising athletics meets that will cater to schools, universities, relays, non-standard events as well as the recognised events. In the meantime, Akani and a number of his fellow athletes have become very approachable and visible in the social media sphere in order to promote the sport, notably with the #FillUpPotch campaign ahead of the SA Champs in 2017. He says he wants athletes to continue along those lines, but also wants the provincial bodies and the national federation to pick up from what happened in 2017. “We gave them a blueprint, now they must use it, but we must all do our bit to promote the sport.”