TuksAthletics: 18-year-old Munyai, one of the youngest SA 200 m champions

Posted on April 17, 2016

Eighteen-year-old Clarence Munyai (TuksSport High School) became one of the youngest male sprinters to win a title at the South African Senior Championships when he won the 200 m sprint in a time of 20,74 s at the South African Senior Championships in Stellenbosch on Saturday, 16 April 2016. The Grade 11 learner was also part of the Athletics Gauteng North team that won the gold medal for the 4 x 100 m relay in a time of 40,02 s. Munyai is the South African Junior champion (under 20) in the 200 m event and has qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio, with his best time being 20,36 s.

Judging by the events of the first two days of the Senior National Championships, we may be about to witness a revival in South African sprinting. Last year, High Performance Centre (hpc) coach Hennie Kriel made the bold prediction that South Africa has enough young talent to become one of the top three sprinting nations in the world, the other two being the USA and Jamaica. In Saturday's 200 m final, four of the athletes were 18 years of age or younger.

It could be argued that the results might have been somewhat different if Akani Simbine had not torn his hamstring in the 100 m final. His time of 20,29 s in the 200 m final is currently the fastest by a local sprinter this season. Anaso Jobodwana, bronze medallist at last year's World Championships in Beijing and SA record holder, missed out on competing at the National Championships because of an injury. Wayde van Niekerk, former SA record holder in the 200 m, preferred to compete only in the 400 m. But it has been said that 'there is no ''remarks'' column in sports' and 20 years from now statistics will still show that Munyai was the fastest sprinter in the 200 m final, and he deserves all the praise he is receiving.

The results of the 4 x 100 m relay final appeared to confirm Kriel's statement that South African sprinting is on the rise. Western Province's relay team, with two under-20 athletes, finished second in 40,07 s and Eastern Province, who had three under-20 athletes in their team, came third in 40,97 s. This means that eight of the twelve athletes in the top three relay squads were under-20 athletes.

It is also interesting to note that 18-year-old Gift Leotlela, Munyai's training partner at TuksSport High School, finished fourth in the 100 m finals in a time of 10,34 s. He was beaten by Henricho Bruintjies, who has a best time of 9,97 s; Simbine, the current South African record holder (9,96 s) and Emile Erasmus, who is 24 years old.

It was confirmed by a radiologist that Simbine has a grade two tear in his left hamstring. Werner Prinsloo, his coach, does not yet know how long he will be side-lined. According to Prinsloo, Simbine will consult with doctors at the hpc to devise a rehabilitation programme.

Prinsloo says that Simbine realised that something was wrong when he settled into his starting blocks for the 100 m final. The coach was not prepared to comment on whether the injury could have been prevented had Simbine not had to compete in three 100 m races on the same day. At the World Championships and the Olympic Games, athletes are not expected to run more than two 100 m races on the same day. 'There were various circumstances that could have led to Akani's injury,' was Prinsloo's only comment.


- Author Wilhelm de Swart

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