#TuksAthletics: Leotlela qualifies for Rio Olympics

Posted on June 20, 2016

Last year, Gift Leotlela (TuksSport High School) won the 100 m at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa with a time of 10,2 s.

Leotlela proved that his coach's confidence in him was justified on Saturday when he won the 200 m at the CAA Southern Region Under-20 Championships in Lusaka, running in a time of 20,47 s, which qualified him for the Olympics.

His training partner and friend, Clarence Munyai (TuksSport High School), ran a time of 20,45 s in the heats. This was the third time he had run a qualifying time for the 200 m event at the Rio Olympics. However, Munyai was disqualified in the final.

Tamzin Thomas came close to qualifying for the Games in Rio in the 100 m. She won in 11,37 s, which is just 0,05 s short of the Olympic qualifying standard.

Last year, after Leotlela won the 100 m at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa, running in 10,20 s, Hennie Kriel (Tuks/hpc coach) predicted that the young athlete has what it takes to compete at the Olympic Games.

Leotlela also won the 200 m at the Youth Games in a time of 20,56 s. If it had not been for a wind of 2,6 m/s from behind, this would have been a new South African youth record.

This year he won the South African junior 100 m title in a time of 10,21 s – just 0,05 s slower than the Olympic qualifying standard of 10,16 s.

A definite highlight for Leotlela came at the end of May in Palafrugell, Spain. In races against senior athletes, he won both the 100 m in 10,21 s and the 200 m in 20,96 s within the space of 30 minutes.

Kriel said that what excites him about Leotlela as an athlete is his focus on success. 'At times it can be quite challenging to coach Gift. He always wants to know what he can do to run that little bit faster. Much will depend on his motivation and hunger for success. It is important that he realise that he is bound to suffer setbacks. His ability to bounce back from these disappointments will determine whether he has what it takes to become a true champion within the next few years,' said Kriel.

At the beginning of 2016, Leotlela considered himself a sprinter with a good start who was able to keep his top speed until the end in the 100 m. 'I still battle to keep my top speed right up to the finish in the 200 m, but we will get there.'

When asked what made Leotlela such a talented sprinter, Kriel said: 'The top speed achieved by an athlete such as Usain Bolt is unnatural. A young athlete needs to be specifically trained to emulate Bolt's technique. The most natural sprinter is definitely Asafa Powell. His sprinting technique is nearly faultless. Gift is an athlete in the same mould as Powell and that is what makes it so exciting to coach him.'


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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