TuksAthletics: Women's 100 m dash is set to be a thriller

Posted on April 13, 2016

Depending on the weather on Friday, 15 April 2016, the winning time in the women's 100 metres final at the South African Athletics Championships in Stellenbosch could well be the fastest time run in the event for the past ten years.

In 2009, Tsholofelo Thipe won the 100 metres in 11,36 s, the fastest winning time for that event at the National Championships since 2006. Last year, Carina Horn (Tuks/hpc) came close to improving on Thipe's winning time when she won the national title at Stellenbosch in 11,40 s, running into a headwind, which is known to decrease a sprinter's speed by 2,1 m/s.

Horn effectively began a revolution in South African women's sprinting when she ran the 100 m in 11,16 s in Madrid in 2014. After last year's South African Championships she equalled Evette de Klerk's long-standing South African record of 11,06 s (set on 20 April 1990) by running in 11,06 s in Madrid. In the heats on the same day, she ran 11,10 s.  At the World Championships in Beijing, she ran 11,08 s in the heats, but the wind from behind was too strong. In the semi-finals, she ran 11,15 s. In the history of South African women's athletics, only De Klerk and Geraldine Pillay have run times as fast or faster in the 100 metres.

Owing to the brilliant performances by Akani Simbine (9,96 s in the 100 m), Henricho Bruintjies (9,97 s in the 100 m), Anaso Jobodwana (19,87 s in the 200 m), Wayde van Niekerk (9,98 s in the 100 m, 19,94 s in the 200 m and 43,48 s in the 400 m) the fact that it was Horn who started the revolution has gone practically unnoticed.

Judging by what happened in March this year at Athletics South Africa's Night Series event at Pilditch, it would seem that the Tuks/hpc athlete's performances have directly or indirectly inspired other local sprinters to also lift their game. Horn won in 11,23 s, Alyssa Conley (University of Johannesburg) came second with a time of 11,29 s and Tebogo Mamathu (Tuks) came third in 11,40 s. Both Horn and Conley qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio.

It is hard to remember when last there were three athletes in a local women's 100 metres race who ran times faster than 11,40 s. It is also the first time in quite a few years that two South African female sprinters have qualified for the Olympic Games in the 100 metres.

Conley has gone on to qualify in the 100 metres for a second time while the Championships in Stellenbosch will only be the second time this season that Horn will be racing. This means that Friday's final could turn out to be a real humdinger, with two of the competing athletes having won the South African title. Horn's first success was when she won in 2011, while Conley won in 2013. Horn won again in 2015.

Horn is not going to be bullied into making bold predictions on the outcome of the 100 m final. All she was prepared to say was that her training has been going well.

'It would seem as if I am slightly faster than I was before last year's South African Championships. The times I have been running during training are as fast as the times I ran in May last year, just before I went to race internationally. I have set myself a goal of how fast I would like to run, but somehow I don't think it is going to happen in Stellenbosch. However, if the weather is OK and my legs are feeling fine, who knows what may happen?'

According to Horn, her Austrian coach, Rainer Schopf has not made any dramatic changes to her training programme after last year's success.

'There are many small things we are working on. We believe that small changes could lead to big gains. The one thing we have established after my indoor campaign is that I need to work on improving my race from between 20 and 40 metres. I am able to keep up with the likes of Dafne Schippers (Netherlands 200 m world champion) for the first 10 metres, but then they start to get a lead on me.  This means that I have to work really hard over the last 50 metres to catch up with them,' said the Tuks/hpc athlete.


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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