Luxolo Adams determined to overcome “speed bumps” on road to Paris

By Karien Jonckheere

Luxolo Adams is yet to get his track season underway. A grade 2 hamstring tear has kept him on the sidelines, but the 27-year-old sprinter is confident he can come back stronger than ever as he builds towards the Paris Olympics, with the opening ceremony now less than eight weeks away.

“We’ve had some speed humps on the road, but I’ve expanded my team in terms of my health side of things, so we are quite positive, everyone is working hard towards that,” he explained, adding that he has based himself in Johannesburg to get the treatment he needs.

“I should leave South Africa mid-June to go and start competing against the best in the world and then we take it from there.”

Adams made a name for himself by running a speedy 19.82 seconds on his way to victory in the 200m at the Paris Diamond League meet in 2022.

A month later he reached the 200m final at his first World Championships in Eugene, Oregon. But at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, after running 20.15 in the heats, he was involved in the bizarre collision between two golf carts transporting athletes from the warm-up track to the stadium and was badly shaken before his semifinal.

Fortunately for the Gqeberha sprinter, the quick time in those Budapest heats saw him qualifying for the Paris Olympics as he has not competed since then.

“I’m a seasonal athlete,” he explained. “I always come through at the end, and when I’m back I’m back. I think I’ve mastered that now in terms of knowing how to go back, and how to run fast after I’ve had an obstacle along the way,” added Adams, who has dealt with his fair share of obstacles during his career.

“I don’t let that thing put me off my talent. This is my food, this is how I live, this is what puts food on the table. So I’m not going to let anything small get into my head,” he reckoned.

“We don’t want to get too excited because we’ve got a big fish to fry, so we are taking each and every step with precautions. Obviously we want to get to the Olympic Games.”

As for the excellent form that has already been shown this season by other international sprinters, Adams added: “With everyone that has competed so far most of them are looking good… I’m happy for them that they are running fast times now, but I would be worried because it’s still early.

“The Olympic Games are only in August. We want to get to the final so we can’t impress early, we need to impress when it matters.”

Road To Redemption: Simbine sets sights on Paris

By Karien Jonckheere

After shaking off a disappointing end to last season, which had started so promisingly but ended with a false start in the 100m semifinal and a dropped baton at the World Athletics Championships, Akani Simbine is only looking forward.

Forward to next month’s National Championships and then on to the Olympic Games in Paris. He’s now a married man, feeling settled and revved up for the season ahead.

“I’m feeling good, it’s been a good start to the year, a good start to the season. I’m healthy, training is going really well, I had my first off-season race with the 150 which went well, and everything is just going according to plan right now,” he explained, referring to the new SA record he set in the rarely run 150m at the Simbine Curro Classic Shootout in Pretoria last month.

“That was very important because I think coming from my last race, which was the DQ at world champs, it was a confidence booster and also getting that tick in your mind saying that OK, you know what, I can still do this, I’ve still got that competitive edge, I’m still hungry to compete,” added the 30-year-old.

“We’re building up to SAs now, making sure that I run well there, retain my title there, and get on to the rest of the year. I’m looking forward to it, confident for the season, confident for the year.”

Simbine has described the Olympic year ahead as one in which he and his coach Werner Prinsloo are taking care of unfinished business.

“Paris is a race and a place where I’m looking forward to running. For Coach and I it’s also kind of like a redemption road where we had everything ticked off last year and the false start happened. So now this year it’s about coming back and just keeping on working and doing everything that we need to do to make sure we’re ready to race.

“It’s just another race at the end of the day… It’s just the title that changes and I need to get that in my head and to accept that and enjoy it and give my all,” added the two-time Olympic finalist who has earned a reputation as one of the gentlemen of the sport.

Perhaps what keeps him so grounded is his mission to give back through his company Back Sports, which aims to provide a platform for younger athletes to excel – not only in the sport itself by broadcasting their exploits but also by getting them involved behind the scenes in the TV production.

“We’re giving the students an opportunity to learn production, to learn how to shoot, how to do media and just giving them that skill… So we pay them a salary, and then you’re allowed to go train, go to championships.

“For us it’s literally empowering them in those ways, just changing lives, and just making a small impact where we can. We’ve been blessed with an opportunity with Supersport schools to spread our wings and shoot the sporting events and empower more kids and have more reach. I think we have teams all over the country and that’s close to 100 kids that we are changing lives for, that’s 100 families that we’re changing lives for and impacting. And for me, if we’re doing that, I’m happy.”

What a World Champs! (Just not for South Africa…)

The 2023 World Athletics Championships took place in Budapest, Hungary in the last week of August, and what an incredible meet it turned out to be! We saw nine days of World Records, Championship Records, Area Records, National Records, season bests and personal bests, watched enthralling competitions and incredible moments of sporting camaraderie, and basked in what was one of the best World Champs meets of all time. (OK, it wasn’t so good from a South African perspective, but that aside, it was a great meet.) Modern Athlete had two reporters at the event, courtesy of PUMA South Africa, doing daily coverage and interviews, and now it’s time for a look back at some of the highlights of wonderful week of athletics action. – By Sean Falconer & World Athletics 

Puma Welcomes Athletes to Budapest Ahead of World Athletics Championships

Sports company PUMA has kicked off its celebrations for the World Athletics Championships in style, welcoming athletes and media from around the world to the official opening of the PUMA House.

Maria Valdes (Chief Product Officer at PUMA) and Erin Longin (General Manager, Run/Train) took to the stage alongside PUMA ambassadors, and icons of track and field including Karsten Warholm, Marcell Jacobs, Julien Alfred, Mutaz Barshim and Pia Skrzyszowska, giving insight on their preparations and expectations for the competition.

Maria Valdes said: “2023 is a great year for us – it’s our 75th year anniversary – and we truly believe that track and field is the root of many sports. There are so many memorable moments we can look back on where track and field really represented our brand. From Tommie Smith back in 1968 to the numerous world records of Bolt just a couple of years ago. We hope to have more moments like this that can help shape us for years to come – starting here in Budapest.”

Karsten Warholm said: “Confidence is something you build. Obviously, it’s not a given. If it is, it’s not real. We prepare very well in training, and I think that is the secret to my confidence. My coach takes good care of me and and the way we work, we always have control. And then of course when you go to a World Championship, you never know what you can pull out of the hat.”

Marcell Jacobs said: “Maybe I had too many injuries in the last two years… I really tried to overcome all of those problems. I’m the one who wants to be in a good shape, perfectly fit, and ready to face this very important challenge at the World Championships in Budapest.“

Julien Alfred said: “It’s been fantastic to be part of the Puma family. Puma is a great brand who have paved the way for many of my idols and it feels great. And I really love the spikes as well!“

Guests were also given the opportunity to hear from Jamaican athletes Shericka Jackson, Rasheed Broadbell, Hansle Parchment, and rising star Jaydon Hibbert.

Shericka Jackson said: “I’ve been working hard and there is no pressure for me. I’m in good shape and I’m going to show up, stay in my lane and focus on me.“

Rasheed Broadbell said: “It’s really not a bad feeling [to not be the favourite], but a good thing, because the attention is not on me, so it’s not really much pressure… But whoever the eyes are on, they have to ensure that they deliver. So for me, it’s just keeping in my lane, staying focused and delivering.“

Hansle Parchment said: “Usually everybody is going to the US for college, but at the last minute we changed our minds to go to the University of the West Indies. I think that was a very good decision for me, otherwise, I would have been running every weekend in the US. I’m very happy that I made that decision to stay in Jamaica.”

The World Athletics Championship Budapest 2023 will take place from 19-27 August.

Simbine and Tshite secure semifinal spots while throwers fall short

Akani Simbine got his World Championships campaign off to a speedy start in Budapest, Hungary on Saturday night, winning his 100m heat in a time of 9.97 seconds. The two-time Olympic finalist is bidding to break his major championship medal drought and become the first African athlete to claim the world title.

All our World Championship coverage is proudly fuelled by PUMA South Africa.

Fellow South African Benjamin Richardson just missed out on reaching the semifinals by a few thousandths of a second. Only the top three in each heat and the three fastest losers progressed. The 19-year-old finished fourth in his heat in 10.17 but two other athletes, Nigerian Usheoritse Itsekiri and Iran’s Hassan Taftian also recorded times of 10.17. When taking the thousands of a second into account, it was Itsekiri who progressed.

“I’m really happy to get that first run out the way, get the win out the way, and just feeling the track,” said Simbine afterwards. “It’s my first time inside the stadium today. Just running and winning and trusting my running pattern, and trusting how I race, and trusting the shape that I’m in, you know it’s paying off.” 

Speaking about South Africa’s chances in the 4x100m relay, Simbine added: “The relay really looks good, everybody must just stay healthy. Benji [Richardson] is young, you know he’s got a good career ahead, he’s going to have a good career like this. I’m looking forward to the relay, looking forward to fighting for the medal that’s also been missing for the longest time, so we shall see.”

Earlier in the evening Tshepo Tshite qualified for the semifinals of the 1500m after finishing second in the slowest heat of the night in 3:46.79. While Ryan Mphahlele ran a much quicker time of 3:39.16 in his heat to finish 10th, new World Athletics rules for the longer distances meant he missed out as only the top six in each heat progressed to the next round.

“The race was tactical but remember, this year the criteria have changed. It’s not all about how fast you run, it’s all about making sure that you’re in the top six. I think that was the reason the race was tactical,” explained Tshite.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s throwers struggled on Saturday with Olympic finalist Kyle Blignaut (18.82m) and Burger Lamprechts (19.52m) failing to qualify for the shot put final while Victor Hogan fell short in discus qualification, his 61.80m effort seeing him finishing in 27th place.

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Rising Sprint Star Signs for PUMA

Global sports brand PUMA has signed 22-year-old US-American track and field athlete Abby Steiner. The rising star’s victory in the women’s 200-metre final of the US Outdoor Championships in 21.77 seconds made her the second-fastest woman in the world over this distance up till that point in 2022, and this week she made it through to the 200m final at the World Athletic Championships in Eugene, going on to finish fifth with a time of 22.26 in her first appearance in a world final.

Steiner currently boasts impressive personal bests of 10.90 for 100m and that 21.77 for 200m, and she holds both the women’s indoor 200m American record with a time of 22.09, as well as the collegiate-level NCAA 200m record (outdoors) at 21.80, which she set at the NCAA Championships in June this year.

In 2018, Steiner was named her nation’s best high school female athlete, having excelled both in athletics and soccer. That year she began studying at the University of Kentucky (UK) on a dual-sport scholarship, but after tearing her knee ligaments on the soccer field, she decided to focus on the track, and Steiner cites this decision as a key to her track development: “Before, with soccer, I’d be training soccer in the fall, then I would come to track. I think really allowing myself to dive fully into the process of the periodisation of training that we do, so fall training and then going into indoor and outdoor seasons, it’s all really important in developing speed and getting to where you want to be.”

Eyes on the Prize

Since focusing solely on the track, Steiner has quickly developed into a world-class athlete. She won the 2021 NCAA Division 1 Indoor Championship 200m title with a meeting record 22.38. Then in 2022, she completed a full sweep of medals at the next installment of the NCAA Indoor Champs, taking gold in the 200m (with a meeting record 22.16), silver in the 60m (with a PB 7.10), and bronze in 4x400m relay.

Next up was the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Champs, where she won gold in the 200m and set that 21.80 NCAA record, added a bronze medal in the 100m with her 10.90 PB, and helped her UK varsity team win the 4x400m relay (in another meeting record 3:22.55). Steiner followed that with her title-winning 200m run at the US Champs, with yet another PB.

Earlier this year, Steiner was named the National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year and the 2022 Honda Sport Award winner for Track & Field, presented annually to the most outstanding women’s college athlete in each of 12 NCAA Division 1 women’s sports. Therefore, PUMA is thrilled to announce that she has signed to run in the company’s shoes and apparel. “Abby Steiner is one of the most exciting upcoming stars in Track and Field,” said Pascal Rolling, Head of Running Sports Marketing at PUMA. “We believe that she will have a brilliant career, and we want to be by her side and support her.”

Ready to Fly Faster

Steiner graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science in May 2022, and has been accepted to the UK’s physical therapy programme, but has decided to defer her enrolment in order to concentrate on her professional track career, and she is understandably happy to land a lucrative sponsorship deal with a sport brand so prominent and involved in track and field. “PUMA’s list of high-performance athletes is impressive and being one of them just feels amazing,” says Steiner. “I am very happy to be part of the PUMA family now, and I can’t wait to take off.”

More About PUMA

PUMA is one of the world’s leading sports brands, designing, developing, selling and marketing footwear, apparel and accessories. For more than 70 years, PUMA has relentlessly pushed sport and culture forward by creating fast products for the world’s fastest athletes. PUMA offers performance and sport-inspired lifestyle products in categories such as Football, Running and Training, Basketball, Golf, and Motorsports. It collaborates with renowned designers and brands to bring sport influences into street culture and fashion. The PUMA Group owns the brands PUMA, Cobra Golf and stichd. The company distributes its products in more than 120 countries, employs about 16,000 people worldwide, and is headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany.