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Akani Simbine. Picture: ROGER SEDRES
Akani Simbine. Picture: ROGER SEDRES

A stiff head wind scuppered Akani Simbine’s shot at making more history during the 100m semifinals at the national championships in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday afternoon, forcing him to go slower than he wanted.

After going 10.07 sec in the morning heats, the plan had been to go under 10 sec, which would have been the first sub-10 effort at an altitude lower than 1,000m by a South African in this country.

But the wind, which measured 1.4m per second for Simbine’s race, forced him to alter his strategy and he slowed to 10.27 in the semifinals.

Grade 12 pupil Bayanda Walaza, who runs with a windmill style with arms flailing in all directions, won the second race in the second-fastest time, 10.31.

Abduraghmaan Karriem, the 19-year-old 2023 national junior champion, won the third semifinal in 10.44.

“The plan was to literally go sub-10 now because it’s hot and it’s the middle of the day,” said Simbine.

“But the wind didn’t play [along]. As soon as they blew the whistle, there was a big gust that just kept going and didn’t stop so it was literally changing the game plan at the line.”

Simbine is looking to bag his sixth 100m SA crown — seventh overall including a solitary 200m title — on Friday, when the final is scheduled for 5.30pm.

He said he wasn’t fazed by his rivals. “If they want to go at me they need to be in nine [second] shape.”

Simbine, a veteran of two Olympics and six world championships, having finished fourth or fifth in the 100m on five occasions, would have preferred the 100m semifinals to be scheduled on the same day as the final.

“Because that replicates the championships,” he said. At all major meets the semifinals and final are staged on the same day, just a few hours apart.

With the championships being held over an unprecedented four days, organisers could have also spread the 200m over three days, he added.

The race for the minor podium spots is likely to be between the youngsters, with Bradley Nkoane also in the mix.

But the kid who runs like a windmill is attracting attention, though he says his style is home-grown.

“It just came,” said Walaza, a pupil at a Pretoria school who calls Katlehong home. “I run like this normally. It’s not like I train to run like this. It’s how I am ... it seems like when I start to be fast I just lose control of my running style and then it just takes over.”

It’s as if he’s shadowboxing down the track. “My teammates are even saying they’re scared to run next to me because they think I’m going to beat them up,” he added with a laugh.

Simbine argued Walaza needed to work on his style. “It’s something that he needs to change. And he and his team need to work on that because it’s not going to help him get faster. You need to be more effective. Having your arm out is not going to help.”

Walaza agreed, saying he tried to change it “every single day” in training.

“At training it might look like I’m changing, but in [racing] when I start feeling the pressure it just comes out. I want to change it ... I’m going to work hard to change it.”

Viwe Jingqi was the fastest in the women’s 100m semifinals, crossing the line in 11.51, with veteran Tamzin Thomas winning the other eliminator in 11.60.

The 19-year-old is looking to eliminate the memories of 2023 during which she struggled coming back after appendix surgery.

“My body is recovering from the injury, but I feel like I’ve been stopping myself from getting to that gear and tomorrow I just want to get to that gear.”

Glenrose Xaba finally claimed her first 5,000m title, kicking at 3,000m to see off 800m star Prudence Sekgodiso and win in 15 min 48.44 sec. Sekgodiso, who is also doing the 1,500m, was second in 16:02.04.

Nadeel Wildschutt, older brother of Adriaan, who is gunning for the 5,000m title on Saturday, won an exciting men’s 10,000m, outsprinting Sibusiso Kubheka to finish in 29 min 15.93 sec.

Yolandi Stander won the women’s discus title, throwing 55.00m to see off Miné de Klerk (52.55), who also ended second in the shot put final behind Ashley Erasmus (17.27).

Michelle Ngozo took the women’s high jump with a leap of 1.76m.

The men’s 400m hurdles, SA’s premier track-and-field event 20 years ago with four athletes who achieved the Olympic qualifying time, could muster only 18 finishers across three heats on Thursday.

Hamman le Roux, a veteran of Rio 2016, and Lindukhule Gora were the only ones dipping under 50 seconds, going 49.94 and 49.97 respectively. 

Automatic qualifying for Paris 2024 is 48.70.

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