'I can be very dangerous'‚ Akani Simbine warns
Sprint star Akani Simbine says he will be “very dangerous” if he runs the perfect race at the Tokyo Olympics at the weekend.
The world No 2‚ bidding to become the first SA competitor to make the Games 100m podium since 1908‚ storms into action in the first round of competition on Saturday‚ with the semifinals and final on Sunday.
Simbine finished fifth at Rio 2016‚ having lowered his SA record to 9.89sec a few weeks before. This time he’s angling for a medal‚ having slashed his national mark to 9.84 earlier this month. That also stands as the African record.
“I feel like an actual competitor for a medal‚” said the 28-year-old Commonwealth Games champion‚ who has been in the top five of the world since 2016. He was stung after finishing fourth at the 2019 world championships.
“In Rio I felt like a young athlete who was just going there for the experience and just going there to run and see how far I can get in the rounds.
“But it’s changed now‚ you know. I’m a different athlete‚ I’ve matured as a sprinter. I’ve learnt a lot through the years‚ I learnt a lot through the game.
“It’s an exciting time and we’re looking forward to the weekend.”
American Trayvon Bromell is the only man to have gone faster this year‚ clocking 9.77 in June. But right behind Simbine are the other two US runners in the field‚ Ronnie Baker (9.85) and Fred Kerley (9.86).
Three days after setting the African record‚ Simbine finished second behind Baker in Monaco. But he took consolation that‚ despite a poor start‚ he still beat Bromell‚ Kerley and Canadian star Andre De Grasse.
“Knowing that I still had those races in my legs and coming out and still performing as I did [in Monaco] … For me and for Coach [Werner Prinsloo] it did give us some confidence — knowing I do have a lot of petrol in the tank and just knowing I can catch those guys after not such a good start and having to run them down.”
The key in Japan will be executing all elements of the race correctly.
“I’m looking to do the best I can … I know that we can be very dangerous if we run a clean race and we run a perfect race and it’s just looking to running the best race that we can.
“It’s a matter of making sure that every race that I run this week is as perfect as it can be and as clean as it can be‚” added Simbine‚ one of three SA sprinters in the field‚ alongside Gift Leotlela and Shaun Maswanganyi.
The only SA sprinter to reach the Olympic 100m podium was Reggie Walker‚ the winner at the first London Games 113 years ago.
Much has been said about the different texture of Tokyo’s spectator-less Games‚ delayed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic‚ but Simbine said the 2021 showpiece was the real deal.
“This still feels like an Olympics‚” he said. “You see the Olympic rings everywhere.
“Just being in a space where you’re surrounded by different sports and the greats of the greats in those sports reminds you that you’re part of the elite‚ a small group of the world that comes together every four years to come compete and do the best they can.”
Simbine is also in the 4x100m relay team‚ which is scheduled to compete in the heats on Thursday next week.