Isaac Makwala. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Isaac Makwala. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Botswana star Isaac Makwala would like to become the fourth man in the world to break 31sec when he races the 300m in Pretoria on Thursday.

Makwala‚ one of only five athletes on the planet to have run a sub-20sec 200m and sub-44sec 400m‚ will be one of the foreign stars on show at the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix meeting at the Tuks track.

World 100m champion Justin Gatlin of the US is the main attraction in the 150m, in which he takes on Anaso Jobodwana‚ leaving Akani Simbine the out-and-out favourite for the 100m.

Two of the three sub-20/ sub-44 men have been quicker than 31sec in the 300m — Wayde van Niekerk and American Michael Johnson. The third is Usain Bolt.

Makwala and veteran American LaShawn Merritt are the two sub-20/sub-44 runners who have not been under 31sec in the 300; Merritt’s best is 31.23‚ while Makwala’s is 31.44.

Van Niekerk owns the 30.81sec world best‚ which he took from Johnson (30.85) in 2017. Bolt’s best was 30.97.

Makwala — the only man in the world to have done a sub-20/sub-44 on the same day‚ about 75 minutes apart — was a little slower when he ran the double at the opening Athletix meeting in Ruimsig last Thursday. He won the 400m in 45.03 but 30 minutes later faded into fifth spot in 20.89.

"I did not go flat out in the 400m because I still had the 200m later in the evening‚" he said. "But there is only the 300m for me this Thursday‚ so I feel confident about getting close to that sub-31."

Makwala will again face young Thapelo Phora‚ who was second behind him in the 400m in Ruimsig‚ and Pieter Conradie‚ who was third.

Also competing in the 100m are Henricho Bruintjies‚ the former holder of the 9.97 national record‚ rising star Clarence Munyai‚ world under-18 champion Tshenolo Lemao and world under-18 200m champion Retshidisitswe Mlenga.

Potentially the biggest threat to Simbine‚ owner of the 9.89 national record‚ is Gatlin’s training partner Justin Walker‚ who boasts a 10.05 best. Simbine has been beaten only twice over 100m on home soil since 2014. Both defeats came in 2016‚ losing to Bruintjies at the South Africa championships and a few months later finishing third at the African championships behind Ivorian Ben Youssef Meite and Mosito Lehata of Lesotho. This will be Simbine’s first race of the season.

In the 400m hurdles‚ Kenya’s world champion from 2015‚ Nicholas Bett, will be in action against the local trio of LJ van Zyl‚ Constant Pretorius and Le Roux Hamman.

Bett’s countryman Aron Koech and Qatari Abderraham Samba are also in action.

Samba‚ coached by South African Hennie Kotze‚ clocked his 48.31 best in Sasolburg in 2017.

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