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Akani Simbine wins the 100m men's race on day one of the ASA Senior Track and Field National Championships at Green Point Athletics Stadium in Cape Town on Thursday. Picture: Picture: Esa Alexander
Akani Simbine wins the 100m men's race on day one of the ASA Senior Track and Field National Championships at Green Point Athletics Stadium in Cape Town on Thursday. Picture: Picture: Esa Alexander

Akani Simbine won SA 100m crown No 6 in Cape Town on Thursday, but it was his most emotional by far, as he broke down in tears in a media interview soon afterwards. 

Simbine, fourth at the Tokyo Olympics last year, turned to his rivals as he crossed the line in 10.31, just three-hundredths of a second in front of 17-year-old Bradley Nkoana, the SA under-18 champion. Neo Mosebi, the SA under-20 title-holder, was third in 10.34 and Henricho Bruintjies fourth in 10.40. 

Simbine waved his index finger at them to show he was still the top sprinter in the country, a title he has held since 2015, apart from 2016 when he withdrew injured. 

This was a rare display for an athlete who started his career with the nickname “Mr Chill” because of his laid-back attitude. 

And in the immediate wake of his triumph, after a tough few weeks during which he ran a slow 200m, failing to break 21sec, and then finishing second to Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala over 100m a week ago,  he could not hold off the raw emotion .

“Mentally it’s been a rough couple of weeks because everybody’s been coming at me saying, ‘Akani’s gone, Akani’s gone, he’s not the same since the Olympics’,” said Simbine. 

“I’ve worked hard for this, I’ve worked so hard to be where I am. It’s not something I’ve just been given.

“Some people respect me, some people don’t respect me but I’m doing something good for athletics in SA,” he added, saying he had trusted the programme of his long-time coach, Werner Prinsloo.

“No matter what they say, when it’s time to produce what I produce and that was my goal for SA champs.”

His stablemate, Carina Horn, won the women’s 100m to give their coach Prinsloo the national sprint double. 

It was while Simbine was paying tribute to Prinsloo, his coach for more than a decade, that he broke down. 

“Someone that’s been with me for ...” he said, before sobbing and putting his hands to his face and taking several seconds to compose himself.  

“For my coach it’s the biggest thing because everybody said to him he’s just a one-athlete coach and now he’s been able to prove he can make other athletes run. And for me that’s the biggest thing and I wish people could give him the respect he deserves."

Dominique Scott dominated the women’s 5,000m race with a performance that left Caster Semenya in her shadow at Green Point stadium. 

She had trailed Semenya and Glenrose Xaba for most of the distance, but with four laps to go Scott attacked and crossed the line unchallenged in 15min 28.10sec. Semenya was second in a 15:31.50 best, still well short of the 15:10.00 qualifying time required for the world championships later this year. 

Semenya had tried to go with her, but she was unable to. 

US-based Scott came into the race as the favourite, given her best time, though Semenya had won their only other previous encounter over that distance, at the 2019 championships in Germiston. 

“I wasn’t really concerned with making it a fast race, I just wanted to get the title today,” said Scott. “Obviously Caster is an amazing runner, she has a superfast deadly kick so I knew I couldn’t leave it until the last lap, not even really the last kilometre.”

Mbuleli Mathanga won the men’s 10,000m in 28:22.74. 

The day opened with the news that Wayde van Niekerk had withdrawn because of injury, and then in the opening heat the favourite in the women’s 100m, Viwe Jingqi, pulled out after tweaking her hamstring on the warm-up track. 


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