Team SA sprinter Akani Simbine brimming with confidence ahead of 100m Olympic race
With three-time champion and Rio 2016 winner Usain Bolt now retired, there is guaranteed to be a new Olympic 100m sprint king for the first time since 2004. South Africa’s Akani Simbine is quietly confident that it can be him.
South African sprinting superstar Akani Simbine is going into the Olympics in the form of his life. If there was ever a time for him to become the first South African sprinter to land a podium finish since Reggie Walker in the 1908 Olympics, it is now.
In the build-up to what is generally one of the most anticipated events at the Olympics, world No 2 Simbine is brimming with confidence.
Three weeks ago, at the Gyulai István Memorial meet in Hungary, Simbine obliterated his 100m personal best time, the meeting record, the South African record as well as the African record when he ran 9.84 seconds.
“This year has been quite a journey for me. Everything has been working according to plan. Everything has worked according to plan and how we’ve actually wanted it to go… I’m very confident going into my races,” Simbine shared with Daily Maverick from Tokyo.
“The last race I ran a personal best, which was great for us because we had planned it that way, that I’m peaking at the right time. So, that has put my confidence in a high place and I’m feeling very good going into the race. I’m really looking forward to start racing and seeing what comes out of it.”
Simbine will face competition from the likes of American trio Trayvon Bromell, Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley. Canadian Andre De Grasse, who won bronze in Rio five years ago, is also a threat.
Fastest man in Africa
In April the 2018 Commonwealth 100m champion ran a time of 9.82 in the semifinal of the South African Championships in Pretoria. It couldn’t be recorded as the wind on the day was over the limit for record purposes. That did not dishearten Simbine, and he says he is ecstatic about finally usurping Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria as the fastest African man.
“Breaking the African record was a goal for the last five years. Achieving a goal that you’ve been chasing for years is really great, it brings everything [you have gone through] back and says you are on the right track, you are working towards the bigger goal,” the sprinter said to Daily Maverick.
Pushed on whether the bigger goal is Olympic gold, Simbine was coy.
“I’m going out to do my best. I’m going out to run my best and just give it my all. To make sure that when I cross the line, I cross it knowing that I gave it my 100%,” Africa’s fastest man told Daily Maverick.
Simbine also touched on the accolades of swimming sensation Tatjana Schoenmaker and retiring surfer Bainca Buitendag.
Earlier this week the duo scooped Team SA’s first medals of Tokyo 2020 when they landed silver in the 100m breaststroke and the first surfing competition at the Olympics respectively.
“Seeing the girls winning the medals was inspiring and motivating. As a team, we’re looking for people to win and lift the atmosphere in the South African camp. Just having that in our camp, knowing that South Africans can go out there, challenge the world and bring medals home is very motivating,” Simbine said to Daily Maverick.
The 2020 Olympics, delayed by a year due to Covid-19, are unorthodox with no spectators allowed in the different sports arenas due to Japan’s constantly rising coronavirus cases. Some athletes have cited the hollow stadiums as demotivating, even though they are unavoidable.
Simbine says despite the unorthodox Games, his eyes are on the prize.
“I know what I’m here for. I know that I’m here to get a job done. I know that it’s an unfortunate time we’re in. We’re entertainers and we perform well when there is a crowd out there,” the 26-year-old told Daily Maverick.
“But there’s one thing that I keep telling myself. Which is that the people who are supporting me back home and all over the world; they are supporting me in spirit. Even though they are not here physically. That’s one thing I keep reminding myself, and it’s helping me.”
Simbine will partake in the heats on Saturday afternoon, with the 100m final set to take place on Sunday. DM
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