Posted on May 09, 2017
Being one of the trailblazers of South African athletics seems to come naturally to Akani Simbine.
On Friday when the Tuks-athlete outsprinted Justin Gatlin to win the 100 metres at the Diamond League Meeting in Doha, it was the third time this season that he had set a first in South African athletics. No other local sprinter has yet been able to win the short sprint at a Diamond League Meeting.
Simbine is also the first local sprinter to run two sub ten seconds 100m races on the same day and the first to run a sub ten second 100m race and sub 20 seconds in the 200 metres on the same day.
Judging by Simbine's performances so far it might not be farfetched to predict that he is capable of winning a medal at the World Championships in London.
The Tuks athlete's progress as sprinter over the last six years is remarkable. In 2012 he set a new South African junior record for running the 100 metres race in 10.19s. Except for 2013 he has managed to improve his time each year. In 2014 his best time was 10.02s, in 2015 he ran 9.97s and last year he ran 9.89s. His best time so far this season is 9.92s.
Simbine's coach, Werner Prinsloo, views 2012 as his breakthrough year.
'When Akani ran that 10.19s it changed my life as a coach. It was not only the moment he ran, but rather the build-up to the race. I realised that Akani was not powerful enough as a sprinter so I specifically changed his programme to include more strength training. We had been doing this for about three months when he set a new national junior record. Running 10.19s was a massive improvement on his previous best of about 10.49s.
'The next milestone for Akani was in 2013 when he started competing in Europe. Up to then I was the one who taught him what he knew about sprinting. Once he started racing internationally he became a student of sprinting and started learning from other athletes.
'I always say that training is training, but for an athlete to be successful he needs to learn how to run. That started happening for Akani in 2013. Sprinting will never just be about running as fast as you can when the starter's gun goes.'
Prinsloo considers last year as the third breakthrough moment in Simbine's journey towards becoming a world class sprinter.
'We realized that we needed to work on Akani's start as that was where he was losing international races. His top speed was never a problem. I consider it to be on par with the likes of Asafa Powell, but he lost a lot of time over the first twenty metres.
'Akani's start is now one of the best. He proved it at last year's Olympic final in Rio where his reaction time out of the blocks was the fastest. If Akani has a good start there are very few sprinters who are able to beat him.'
Prinsloo said that going forward it will all be about marginal gains for the Tuks sprinter.
'For him to become a consistent 9.90s sprinter we will have to work on small specific details. The challenge for me as a coach will be good planning. Because Akani trains and races at such a high intensity it is important to make sure that he takes proper breaks from time to time in order for his body to recover.'
Prinsloo emphasized that the 200 metres is important to him.
'I realized during the South African Championships that we still need to work on Akani's endurance for him to be able to run consistently good times in the 200 metres. In Potchefstroom by the time he had to run the 200 metres final he did not have much left in his "tank".'
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