Confident Simbine Retains SA Crown


An exciting first day of action at the ASA Senior Track and Field Championships in Potchefstroom saw sprinter Akani Simbine claim a fifth national title in the men’s 100m, while there were also repeat wins for other SA stars. – BY KARIEN JONCKHEERE

Akani Simbine believes he has nothing more to prove, and it shows. The two-time Olympic finalist produced the top performances of the opening day of the SA Championships in Potchefstroom on Thursday, admitting afterwards that he’s in a much happier place than last year, when he burst into floods of tears after safely securing the 2022 national 100m title.

Simbine blitzed to a speedy 9.98 seconds in Thursday’s heats, and then bettered that with a 9.92 in the semifinals – both within the 10-second qualifying standard for the World Athletics Championships taking place in August in Budapest, Hungary. He then ran 10.14 in the final for a fifth national 100m title.

“I just had a little technical error in the beginning, but other than that it was a good race. It’s just unfortunate it’s a bit chilly right now and the wind was against us, but the legs are still good. I can go another round,” he joked afterwards. “I’m just happy to be running well and feeling good and having everything around me be in a good space. My confidence has been up since I started training. I had to just get my head right, and I think that’s one big play right now.”

“Last year a lot of things were happening, but this year my confidence is back up and I’ve got to a point where I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I know I am fast, I know I’m one of the best sprinters in the world, so I just have to go out there, train hard, focus on training, do better every time on the track, and get there and perform,” added Simbine.

More Repeat Winners

Also claiming a fifth national title in the 100m on Thursday was women’s champion Carina Horn. She held on for victory in 11.52 seconds, just in front of Tamzin Thomas who took the silver in 11.58. “It was a bit tough… there was a bit of a headwind, but I’m just happy to defend my title,” she said after her final, and about claiming a fifth title, she added: “It feels good. It’s probably my second-last year, so it’s good to have it back again.”

On the other end of the distance spectrum, Glenrose Xaba dominated the women’s 10,000m final. The 28-year-old lapped almost the entire field on her way to a sixth national title in the event, just missing the sub-33-minute mark as she finished in 33:02.13. “It’s high altitude so I’m happy with the time,” said Xaba afterwards.

Sadly, Xaba didn’t get to run alongside her coach, Caster Semenya, as she had hoped to do. The two-time Olympic 800m Champion was initially included on the start list for the 10,000m race, but chose not to compete in what would effectively have been her final competitive race, with World Athletics’ new regulations barring her participation in all distances because of naturally occurring testosterone levels, which come into effect on Friday 31 March.

Van Niekerk Inspires

Meanwhile, the Potch fans were treated to the sight of a fit-again Wayde van Niekerk cruising through his 400m heat on Thursday. The 400m World Record-holder is making a return to the event at the national championships for the first time since 2016 and comfortably won his heat in a time of 45.99 seconds.

Also looking in fine form was reigning World Junior Champion Lythe Pillay, who easily won his heat in a slightly quicker 45.95. “It felt comfortable, but I wasn’t expecting to push for that time in the heat,” said the 20-year-old afterwards. As for his impressions of the returning Van Niekerk, Pillay reckoned: “Wayde is the best there is… I had a bit of a fan moment watching him, and then I was like, no, you have to get ready to run now. But it was nice, seeing how he runs, seeing him in person. I’m looking forward to racing with him.”

“Having him back is good, exciting. It also motivates all of us, because when it comes time to race, we all want to do our best, for ourselves, but also to impress him a bit as well. He’s motivated a lot of athletes like myself. I’ve been his fan for quite a while, and he inspired me to run the 400, so it’s good to see him back,” added Pillay.

Action at the SA Track and Field Championships continues on Friday and comes to an end on Saturday, 1 April.