SA bungled the first handover in a 4x100m relay heat to crash out of the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY
SA bungled the first handover in a 4x100m relay heat to crash out of the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY

SA’s highly fancied 4x100m relay team crashed out of the heats at the Tokyo Games on Thursday, failing at the first handover.

Clarence Munyai and Shaun Maswanganyi looked more like they were out to provide comic relief at an event in which SA were expected to compete for a medal after going into the showpiece as the world relay champions.

In a bizarre mix-up, Munyai, starting the relay, failed to find Maswanganyi and nearly ran into him, looking at one point as if he was trying to hitch a piggy-back ride. All their rival runners shifted to the inside of their lanes, to facilitate the hand-over from right hand to left hand, except for Munyai who kept to the outside of the lane. 

Munyai was part of the team that won gold at the World Relays in Poland in early May, though he ran the third leg then.

Poor anchor Akani Simbine, fourth in the individual 100m on Sunday, could do nothing but watch the horror show unfold. It was the same for Chederick van Wyk, selected as a reserve but who cemented his spot after Gift Leotlela was injured at the weekend. 

SA were not the only high-profile casualties: the US also failed to qualify for Friday’s final.

The relay team were the last of SA’s 13 medal hopes to compete at the Games. From here on out, SA’s last chances of adding to its haul of three medals are all outsiders, such as the men’s 4x400m relay team, which competes in the heats on Friday, the women’s marathon on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.

Kyle Blignaut fought hard before finishing sixth in the men’s shot put final, one spot behind SA-born Italian Zane Weir. The 21-year-old Blignaut, the world under-20 champion in 2018, threw a best of 21m, 41cm behind Weir’s best.

And earlier, two-time Midmar Mile champion Michael McGlynn scored SA’s best placing in a marathon swim since it became an Olympic sport in 2008, ending the 10km race in eighth position.

The 21-year-old from Durban found himself lying 25th early on, but he powered his way through the field until he got into the top eight with about 1km to go. He clocked 1hr 51min 32.7sec, 2:59 behind German Florian Wellbrock, who won by the biggest margin seen so far, with a 25.3sec gap over runner-up Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary. The three previous men’s races were far narrower. 

Before Thursday SA’s best result in this event at a Games had been ninth, by Chad Ho at Beijing 2008, though he had been only 21.5sec off the pace then. Five years ago Ho was 10th and 5sec behind.