Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 - Page 22

OLYMPIC GAMES
Luvo Manyonga Ruswahl Samaai Stephen Mokoka
improvement this year , clocking 48.54 ( a World Junior Record ) and 49.53 respectively , but the duo were withdrawn from the 400m by World Athletics due to testing showing that they are DSD athletes . However , both will feature in the 200m , and should one or both of them medal , then there is no doubt that WA will look to expand the DSD ruling to include the 200m !)
So , while SA athletes have produced some very good performances in the last few years , it does look
Expect Fireworks ... Women ’ s 400m Hurdles
Like the men ’ s race , the women ’ s 400m hurdles final may just need a World Record to decide who will take home the gold . The two favourites are America ’ s Sydney McLaughlin and Delilah Mohamed , with Femke Bol of the Netherlands waiting to spoil the party should either of the Americans falter . Mclaughlin won the US Trials race in 51.90 , becoming the first woman to dip under 52 seconds . She also defeated the former World Record-holder ( 52:16 in 2019 ) and Olympic champion , Mohamed , in the process . Having battled with injury and COVID , Mohamed was not at her best at the trials , and may well be a different prospect in Tokyo . Bol has been nothing if not consistent this year , winning every race she has entered , but she will need to do way better than her 52:37 best if she wants to be on the top step of the podium in Tokyo .
Sydney McLaughlin
like we have gone a bit backwards since Rio , and it begs the question , what has happened to the Golden Generation of SA athletics ? Now , looking ahead to Tokyo , the best chance Team South Africa has of picking up some silverware comes in the form of Akani , Wayde and the men ’ s 4x100m relay .
Akani Simbine ( Men ’ s 100m )
Until 6 July this year , many followers of the sport had become concerned about Akani ’ s chances of winning a medal in Tokyo . There was huge excitement over his 9.82-second run at the South Africa Championships in April , but he had a tailwind of 2.8m / s , making it a wind-aided time and therefore not considered as a ‘ legal time .’ While he did win both his races at the start of his European campaign , they seemed far from convincing as he opened with a 10.08 in Rome ( 10 June ), and followed that up with a 10.11 in Lucerne ( 29 June ). By that time the Americans were clocking 9.8 ’ s , and Trayvon Brommel had run 9.77 .
Akani Simbine
Happily , all the questions were answered on 6 July in Székesfehérvár , Hungary , when Akani flew to a new SA and African record of 9.84 . In the process , he not only posted the second-fastest time in the world in 2021 , but also demolished a classy field ... and he made it look easy . He followed that with a mature 9.98 second-place finish in Monaco on 9 July . It came with a scare , though , with Akani thinking he had false-started , but the red card went to France ’ s Jimmy Vicaut . When the race restarted , a visibly tense Akani did not have the best of starts , but once he was into his running , he found his form and looked every bit the class act he is . In the end , Akani had to settle for second behind America ’ s Ronnie Baker ( 9.91 ), but he took the scalps of Americans Brommel and Fred Kerley , as well as Canada ’ s Andre de Grasse , all sure to be gunning for the win in Tokyo , and the fact that he fought back after a nervy start will have been a huge confidence-booster .
Akani looked a different athlete in these last two races , and all of a sudden , the experts were saying he was more than just a contender for a medal in Tokyo , he was a medal expectation ! Of course , if you had asked Akani how he saw his chances , he would have told you all along that he was coming home from Tokyo with a medal … and the colour of that medal would be gold . Now those are no longer just words , but a very real possibility .
Akani ’ s 100m races
Heats – 31 July , from 12:45 SA Time Semi-final – 1 August , from 12:15 SA Time Final – 1 August , 14h50 SA Time
Wayde van Niekerk ( Men ’ s 400m )
He is the World Record-holder , a two-time World Champion and the reigning Olympic champion . He has class and fighting spirit . But is he the Wayde van Niekerk of old , from before the freak knee injury suffered late in 2017 during a charity touch rugby game , which cost him two years of his career ? That is the question on everyone ’ s mind .
Last year , Wayde lined up in just six races , and looked far from convincing . In his first major 400m since the injury in 2017 , Wayde ran an unconvincing 45.58 in Switzerland in September . Only in the final 150m did it seem as if the muscle memory kicked in , and he was able to glide through for the win , but by his own
Images : Bob Ramsak / Wikimedia , Erikvan Leeuwen / Wikimedia , Reg Caldecott , Roger Sedres / ImageSA & Steven Pisano / Wikimedia
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