TIME TO SHINE
How speedy Akani Simbine knew it was his time to shine
Gold Coast — There was never any doubt in the mind of newly crowned Commonwealth Games 100m gold medallist Akani Simbine that this was his time to shine.
This is despite the overwhelming local view that Jamaican Yohan Blake was the man to take over the mantle of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. Local newspapers reported on Tuesday morning that the "New Bolt falters in sprint final shocker" and "Flying South African spoils Jamaican party".
In fact, most Australian news outlets repeatedly used the words "shock" and "upset" to describe the win. It had come in 10.03sec, with countryman Heinricho Bruintjies second in 10.17 and Blake third in 10.19.
Was it a shock to Simbine, who finished in sixth, one position behind Blake – the joint second fastest 100m sprinter in history – at the Rio Olympics?
"No, it was not much of a shock. Not for me, my coach and my team. I knew I had to run the perfect race to come out on top, if I had a clean first 30m and then 60m. So, maybe for others it was a shocker, but not for me, my coach or my team," he said.
Simbine said he had gone to Sascoc president Gideon Sam’s office earlier in the day and the two had "made a deal" that he would win the gold. "We shook on it that I’d win," he said.
On show with Simbine and Bruintjies at the athlete’s village were Monday’s medal winners, para-swimmer Christian Sadie, double breaststroke gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker, swimmer Ryan Coetzee and para-athletes Dyan Buis and Charl du Toit.
"Many people will look and say that the 2018 Commonwealth Games has been a really good campaign. But we haven’t come to the end," said Simbine.
Sam also had a message for the athletes. "Thank you very much. You listened to the sports minister [Tokozile Xasa], who said that you must make the country proud."
Bruintjies, considered a surprise silver medallist, said: "We weren’t focusing on Blake, just medals. I told myself to make sure I stick to Akani because if I do then I’ll get onto the podium.
"Very rarely do you see two competitors in a men’s 100m final at a major competition being drawn in the lane next to each other. So, thanks to Akani for helping me get onto the pod-ium," Bruintjies said.
Simbine said he had spoken to 400m Olympic and world champion Wayde van Niekerk, who is recovering from a knee injury. "I spoke to him and he wished me well. He is happy for the team and for the way we are bringing back the medals. He said he wished he was over here to help.
"This is an exciting time for South African athletics. There might be a void in the sport because of Usain’s retirement, but the stars will now be spread across track and field, in many disciplines. It will bring more people to the sport."
Simbine and Bruintjies will be an integral part of Team SA’s 4x100m men’s relay team, as they are now favourites. "I’ll start off the first leg… and I’ll make sure that when I hand over we have a lead that the others can finish off," joked Bruintjies.
Sam feels it is premature to call SA "the new Jamaica".
"To be dominant you have to test yourself over time," he said. "It’s expensive to compete on the circuit all the time, we need to involve our talent by competing all the time – alongside Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, maybe go and compete against those countries’ athletes in Nairobi.
"We need to get the show on the road, talk to coaches, swimmers, athletes. Tokyo is the next step."