For Pretoria-based sprinting sensation Akani Simbine, dipping under that magical 10-second barrier in the 100m does not look far off. Modern Athlete chats to the young star about his dream to become the fastest out the blocks.
MA: You’ve had an incredible couple of months with a 10.04s finish at the Gauteng North Championships in March as well as a 20.27s PB in the 200m, which qualifies you for the World Champs in Beijing later this year. Was that your immediate goal in 2015?
Akani: My focus was better times and getting back from the torn hamstring I suffered after the Glasgow Games. There was a lot of rehabilitation at the beginning of my season and it helped me get back to my best. There is no scar tissue and working in the gym with more focus than previous years has really helped.
MA: You must be bombarded with this question lately, but I’ll ask it again: Can you break that 10-second barrier?
Akani: I’m training hard for it, but I never want to put a lot of pressure on myself. For now, getting the best form out is what I want, so if it clicks on the day, it clicks.
MA: Word is you initially preferred your soccer boots to your running shoes?
Akani: It’s funny, because soccer was my number one. Growing up in Kempton Park, I did athletics at school but never took it seriously. I remember the sports department head at school telling me that I should run, because he had spotted my talent, so I told my parents about it. I went to work with a coach close to home and that’s when it all started. I was 16 and the second-fastest junior in the country at the end of my first season. That next year, I was second in 100m at the SA Champs and sixth in the 200m. I wanted to qualify for the World Youth Champs but got injured. I came back and it spiralled in the right direction. I was chosen to represent South Africa at the Zone 6 Games in Zambia in 2012 and ran a 10.19 PB there with a national junior record. There was a lot of confidence gained from that!
I started struggling the year after at the IAAF World Champs in Moscow. I couldn’t budge below 10.30 because I was doubting myself and I figured I was one of those wonder kids that would never improve. But I trained harder and became focused. Right now it’s all about getting and maintaining that sub-10 in the 100m. I don’t want to reach it only once. As far as the 200m goes, it’s not really my race, but I compete because I can. It’s about getting faster.
MA: Has the pomp of Varsity Sports Athletics also given you room to improve?
Akani: It’s definitely a sneak peek into how things are done in Europe. There’s the crowd factor and the exposure the sport is getting through media coverage. That brand is growing and it reminds me to enjoy myself. I get so much positive energy from family and friends who watch me race. They ask on Facebook where I’ll be or send me good luck messages. I’m in it to entertain. There’s nothing better than getting that adrenalin going!
MA: You mentioned putting in more focus on gym time. Do you make sure you allow sufficient recovery?
Akani: Every Thursday, I’ve got a session in the pool or a meeting with my physio to make sure everything is feeling right. That and my Sundays off are recovery days. I have learnt to listen to my body and allow for that regeneration period. I do a lot of high-quality sessions during the week, and that puts the body under stress – from speed intervals, acceleration days as well as fitting in strength work, stability exercises and core work. You need that breather!
MA: What is your long-term vision for your athletics career?
Akani: If you want big things to happen, you have to dream big. I want to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest. Dipping under 10 seconds would be the start of that.