Mentor Munyai Still Hungry to Compete


Clarence Munyai is the SA Record-holder in the 200m, but after showing good form in the 100m in recent months, he will be racing at these World Champs as part of the Team SA men’s 4x100m relay team on Friday. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A a few days before he left for Budapest.

In 2018, Clarence Munyai lit up the South African Championships in Pretoria when he clocked a scintillating 19.69 in the 200m final to not only claim the national title, but also set a new national record. In subsequent years, the closest he could get to posting another sub-20 was his 20.04 in 2019, mainly because a series of niggly injuries kept derailing his progress, but he remained one of the top sprinters in SA.

Having competed at the Olympics in 2016 and 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in 2018, as well as the World Champs in 2017, 2019 and 2022, and the World Relay Champs in 2021, Munyai he has been a regular member of Team SA at global competition level. He has also enjoyed some success at that level, helping SA win the 4x100m gold medal at those World Relay Champs (later rescinded due to Thando Dlodlo’s positive doping test), to go with the African Under-20 title in the 200m in 2017 and a bronze medal in the 200m at the 2022 African Champs. He was also fourth in the 200m at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

He nearly made it into the 200m at these World Champs, thanks to posting a qualifying mark of 20.22 in July, but as the fourth-fastest SA sprinter over the 200m distance, he narrowly missed selection. (Countries may only send a maximum of three qualifying athletes per event to the World Champs.) However, his great form over the 100m in the past year, which included him beating his previous best time, set in 2018, saw him once again selected to be a part of the SA 4x100m team, where he is now one of the elder statesmen of the team, in spite of just being 25.

Q. After that incredible SA Record in the 200m in 2018, it feels like you’ve really been unlucky with injuries, often just as you seem to be hitting top form again. Sorry to ask such a tough question right up front, but how are you feeling going into these World Champs, is the body holding up?
The body is holding up well, and we’ve been working really hard with my team to try and cut down injuries and get the body strong, so we don’t get Injured. Staying healthy and injury free is what brings the big performances.

Q. You ran a PB 10:04 last year in the 100m, so what are your hopes and expectations for the World Champs this year?
Running that 10.04 has really motivated me, as I have always been a 200m athlete, and that just shows me I can do great things in both the 100m and 200m. Competing at the World Champs is always about executing what we have been working on with the coach throughout training and races, and just putting everything together when it matters.

Q. You nearly made it into the 200m at these World Champs, but instead will be just part of the 4x100m relay team, whereas last year in Oregon you raced the 100m and 4x100m. Do you think this will help you, perhaps by placing less stress on your body with differing racing distances and more races?
I only have the 4x100m relay to focus on and it’s just two races, so I think my body will handle it well.

Q. Unfortunately, you and Shawn Maswanganyi ran into some issues with the baton handover at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Does that motivate you even more to chase a smooth relay run in Budapest?
In Tokyo, Shaun and I dropped the baton during our exchange and afterwards we had a look at our race and we’ve been working hard to rectify the mistake and change-over. We are really motivated to go out and compete, because we have a really strong 4x100m relay squad, and we want to put it together and do well at World Champs, as it will be a stepping stone to Paris next year.

Q. Similarly, after the high of winning the gold medal at the World Relay Champs in Poland in early 2021, then seeing it taken away, Team SA bounced back to make the final and finish sixth at the 2022 World Champs in Oregon. This points to the team having serious big match temperament, so do you and the guys feel ready to tackle another charge to a final and then chase a medal?
We are really motivated as a team to go and perform. In previous years, we had some setbacks, but we know that we are capable of getting a medal. All the athletes are confident and know we can build on last year’s sixth place and get a better position this year.

Q. In a recent interview with Team South Africa, Sinesipho Dambile lists you as a mentor. How important is it to you to share your experience with the young sprinting talent in South Africa?
It’s always important to try and help the next generation of athletes, because we have so much talent in South Africa, and one day we will have many Gold medal contenders. Being able to help them with what I have learnt and seeing them perform brings joy to me.

Q. Finally, what is your secret to getting faster?
The secret is being disciplined as an athlete to do the things we don’t like or are not good at, because those are the things that will help improve performance. Another of the important things to getting faster is self-belief.

Modern Athlete’s coverage of the World Athletics Championships is brought to you by PUMA.
(Image: Courtesy PUMA South Africa)