Simbine and Van Niekerk enjoy a little horseplay

04 August 2017 - 07:06 By DAVID ISAACSON
Sprint stars Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbine.
Sprint stars Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbine.
Image: Gallo Images

Not many athletes would tell Wayde van Niekerk he is a no-hoper in a sprint race.

But friend and 100m ace Akani Simbine says he and the 400m world record-holder, who will face off in the 200m at the world championships in London next week, enjoy teasing each other.

"I tell Wayde he'll never beat me in the 100m and he'll be like: 'Okay, I can dream about that', and I'll be like: 'Dude, the most practical way for us to compete is the 200m because it's in the middle for both of us'."

At the national championships in Potchefstroom in April, Simbine beat Van Niekerk in the 100m, but had to settle for silver in the 200m.

"For us, it's a fun thing because we're competitors and like competing against each other because we bring the best out of each other. We want the best for each other."

But Simbine, owner of the 9.89sec South African 100m record, was adamant Van Niekerk, South Africa's second-fastest runner with a 9.94 personal best, would never take him in the short sprint.

"That's my baby. Like the 400m is his baby, the 100m is my baby. He'll never take me there," he vowed.

With Canadian star Andre de Grasse withdrawing from the championships because of injury, the 200m will be without the Olympic silver medallist as well as the champion, Usain Bolt, who is focusing only on the 100m and the relay here.

That boosts the odds of Simbine and Van Niekerk sharing the 200m podium come the final on Thursday night next week.

Van Niekerk, with his 19.84sec South African record, and Simbine (19.95) are seeded second and third going into London, behind Botswana's Isaac Makwala (19.77).

Jamaican Yohan Blake, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist, is fourth (19.97).