Munyai keeps eyes on the prize as he targets third Olympics

By Karien Jonckheere

Clarence Munyai may not have the Olympic qualifying time for the 200m in the bag just yet, but he’s confident it will come.

The former national champion ran 20.91 seconds for fourth place at the second ASA Grand Prix meet in Pretoria this week, some way off the 20.16 required, but the season has just started. And with 50 per cent of athletes qualifying for Paris through world rankings, Munyai finds himself safely within that quota for now.

“Yes, I still have to get the qualifying time, but I’m confident I’ll get it,” reckoned Munyai.

“One thing about sport that I like is you always have the next week, like you have a competition this week, then you have a competition next week. So obviously some competitions you do well, some you don’t do too well, and obviously as an athlete you learn how to pick yourself up and go to the next one,” he added.

It’s hard to believe that at just 26 years old, Munyai is gunning for his third Olympic Games, having burst onto the scene as a teenager and setting the current SA 200m record of 19.68 seconds when he had just turned 20.

For the past three years, he’s trained alongside SA 100m record holder Akani Simbine, under the watchful eye of coach Werner Prinsloo.

“He’s a really nice training partner,” Munyai said of Simbine.

“I learned a lot from him. I have my strengths, and he has his strengths, we kind of rub off on each other, and it’s nice to run with someone like him because you push each other in sessions.

“At the end of the day, that one big goal that we’re all working towards, I feel like as an athlete you need someone that has that motivation as well. I feel like it’s really good and it pushes both of us.”

Being confident in his training, Munyai can look ahead to what he would like to achieve in Paris later this year. He reached the semifinal of the 200m at the last Olympics in Tokyo but is now ready for the next step.

“Making the final, and obviously in the final anything can happen because we’ll have eight lanes and then everyone has the same opportunity. So it’s about putting the race together and executing, then everything should go to plan,” he said.

With several months to go before then, however, he pointed out: “Everything’s on track. I feel really strong, I feel fast in training, and obviously now it’s just about putting it together in a race, so that’s what I’m looking forward to. I just want to race and am looking forward to all the races now.”