Posted on April 11, 2016
It is generally expected that Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies will battle it out for the honour of being crowned the fastest man in the country at the South African Athletics Championships, which will take place in Stellenbosch on 16 April 2016.
Wayde van Niekerk, – who earlier this season became the fourth South African sprinter to break through the 10–second barrier, running the 100 m in 9,98 s at the Free State Championships in Bloemfontein – will only compete in the 400 metres in Stellenbosch.
This means the battle for the bronze medal is wide open and there might even be a surprise result when it comes to the silver medal.
The one thing that is certain is that South Africa's athletics fans need to keep their wits about them nowadays to keep track of who the latest sprint star is. It seems that not a week goes by without yet another sterling sprint performance.
Twenty-year-old Thando Roto (Tuks/hpc) could well be the one to spoil the party. He won the SA under-23 title at the South African Age Group Championships in Germiston, running a time of 10,16 s in the 100 metres, which is an Olympic qualification A-standard time. Unfortunately for him, it was deemed that the wind from behind was too strong.
His official best time in the 100 metres is therefore 10,27 s, which puts him right into the mix to win a medal in the 100-metre final on Saturday.
But it is not just Roto who is capable of causing an upset. The proverbial 'joker in the pack' at the South African Championships will be Gift Leotlela (TuksSport High School), who won the SA junior title in a time of 10,21 s in Germiston.
Roto was unable to compete during most of the last season owing to an injured hamstring tendon, sustained at a training session three days after he competed in his first league meeting. Strangely enough, this setback motivated him.
'My coach, Hennie Kriel (Tuks/hpc), played a major role in keeping me motivated. He taught me to take responsibility for my own actions. He is a great motivator who knows how to get his athletes to perform at their best when it matters.'
Roto, who is a true student of the history of international sprinting, considers Usain Bolt (Jamaica) to be a class act.
'His compatriot, Asafa Powell, known as the 'sub-10 king' is also high up on my list of heroes, but in my opinion, the retired Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson, is tops. He was the first man to run in less than 9,8 seconds and he did it at a time when it was thought impossible for man to run that fast. As far as I am concerned, he is also the quickest starter of all time.'
Johnson won the 100 m in a world record time of 9,79 s at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, but was disqualified a day later when he tested positive for the misuse of steroids.
'Don't get me wrong, I do not condone the use of banned substances in sport, but having watched a lot of videos of Johnson racing, I still admire him,' said Roto.
All though he is more than capable at the 200 m sprint, his best time being 21,12 s, he prefers the shorter sprint.
'The 100 m is my baby,' said Roto with a big smile.
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