FILE - South Africa's Akani Simbine. Photo: Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters
FILE - South Africa's Akani Simbine. Photo: Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters

On your marks, get set, go Akani Simbine!: ‘It’s about making sure you get to the line first’

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Jul 30, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - IT’S almost time, Mzansi. Can Akani Simbine become the fastest man in the world?

That is generally the tag given to the 100m Olympic champion, and Simbine will begin his quest for the gold medal in the heats on Saturday afternoon (12.45pm SA time).

The 27-year-old South African star set a new African record of 9.84 seconds earlier this month in Hungary, and believes he is well prepared to clinch a podium spot – having come close at the 2016 Rio Olympics (fifth), 2017 world championships (fifth) and the 2019 world championships (fourth).

ALSO READ: Can Akani Simbine take over Olympics 100m baton from Usain Bolt?

He has quietly gone about his business in Tokyo over the last week or so, and feels excited to get going ahead of Sunday’s final (2.50pm SA time).

“We’ve had a pretty amazing season this year. We started off with a bang, and it was literally just the plan – to start off with a bang, and make sure we continue with that momentum going into the Games,” Simbine said from the Japanese capital.

“We are ticking off all the boxes. I ran my personal best, I ran an African record a couple of weeks ago, and I was peaking at the right time. We are feeling like we are ready to actually go and do well this weekend.”

ALSO READ: Akani Simbine's 9.98 secures runner-up slot at Monaco Diamond League

The weather is generally hot and humid in Tokyo at this time of the year, with the temperature at 28 degrees Celcius on Friday, which is set to spike up to 33 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

ALSO READ: Akani Simbine outclasses field to set new African record in men’s 100m in Hungary

Simbine, though, is happy about running in such conditions. “At the end of the day, it is just to make sure who runs the best race. For me, it’s to run the best race I can run. If I can run a clean race, I know it will be really good – now it’s literally about winning the race, making sure that you are number one, making sure you get to the line first,” he said.

“Making sure you are sending messages from the heats, and that you are feeling good and confident enough going through the heats and semi-finals.

“I’m finally acclimatised and over the jet-lag, and sleeping well now, so I’m pretty happy about that. It’s hot, but the heat is good for us sprinters – we love running in the heat. It helps us perform really well, so we are hoping for good weather this weekend.”

Simbine won’t be the lone South African in the 100m heats, with Gift Leotlela and Shaun Maswanganyi hoping to advance to the semi-finals at least.

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