Akani, Wayde Fireworks In Mens Events At ASA Senior Champs

Photo: Marcel Sigg

Akani Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk are the poster boys expected to light up the track,
amid tight battles at the ASA Senior Track and Field, Combined Events and Relay
Championships which will be held at Msunduzi Athletics Stadium in Pietermaritzburg from
Thursday to Sunday (18-21 April, 2024).

Across the board, this week will see the country’s top male athletes chase the coveted
national titles at the KwaZulu-Natal venue.
In the sprints, SA’s fastest men will need to be on their toes if they want to step on the
podium and all eyes will be on Simbine and Van Niekerk.
For the 100m crown, the entry lists are packed, headlined by national record holder
Simbine who lines up in the colours of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA).

He will face the likes of junior teammate Neo Modibe and versatile athlete Cheswill
Johnson (also CGA), as well as a strong contingent from Athletics Gauteng North (AGN)
including Gift Leotlela, Thembo Monareng and 18 year-old prospect Bayanda Walaza.
A strong challenge is also expected from a powerful Athletics Central North West (ACNW)
team spearheaded by Benjamin Richardson and Bradley Nkoana.
Simbine has already shown his class on the domestic circuit this year, setting a national
150m best of 15.04 seconds at the Backtrack Classic Shootout in Tshwane in February,
and clocking 20.32 to take second place behind Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo in a rare
appearance over the 200m distance at the third leg of the ASA Athletics Grand Prix Series
in Johannesburg last month.
Gearing up for his first 100m race of the year at the ASA Senior Championships, Simbine
said he was focussed on retaining his national title before starting his build-up to the Paris
Olympics on the international circuit.
“My next race is at nationals and I want to make sure I get the job done there,” Simbine
said after the Grand Prix in Johannesburg. “I’ll be going back to the 100m at the SA
Championships because I need to defend my title.”
Over the 200m distance, all eyes will be on 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk,
a former national record holder and World Championships medallist over the half-lap
distance. Van Niekerk will need to find his top gear if he hopes to clinch gold for Boland
Athletics (BOLA).
His opponents include SA 200m record holder Clarence Munyai, Sinesipho Dambile and
Walaza, who will all turn up for AGN. Rising stars Richardson and Modibe are also
expected to be in the hunt in the 200m as well.
The 400m event is going to be tough, even without Van Niekerk in the field. Zakithi Nene,
who won a Diamond League race last year, will be more than eager to shine for host
province KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA).
Nene, however, will not have things all his own way against a super line-up of one-lap
specialists which also features former world junior champion Lythe Pillay and his CGA
teammates Thapelo Phora and Sokwakhana Zazini, as well as Gardeo Isaacs from
Western Province Athletics (WPA).

A thrilling race is expected among the distance runners in the men’s 5 000m event, with a
world-class field converging at the starting line.
National record holder Adrian WIldschutt returns home from his base in the United States
for a rare appearance on SA soil. He will run in the colours of WPA. WIldschutt is up
against the likes of CGA quartet of Ryan Mphahlele, Maxime Chaumeton, Precious
Mashele and Tsepho Tshite, alongside former SA record holder Elroy Gelant and his
ACNW teammate Jerry Motsau.
Other athletes to watch on the track include in-form 400m hurdler Le Roux Hamman
(AGN) who goes up against African champion Zazini in their specialist event.
African record holder Antonio Alkana will also be hoping to put up a fight and dominate a
handful of promising young athletes in the men’s 110m hurdles.
In the field events, more fireworks are predicted in the men’s long jump competition.
The appertising line-up features Jovan van Vuuren (AGN), who has already landed at
8.30m this season and former World Championships medallist Ruswahl Samaai (BOLA).
They will need to beat the likes of Asande Mthembu (AGN) and Johnson, who is as
capable in the long jump as he is in the 100m sprint.
Without doubt, the high jump contest will also attract a great deal of interest, with another
strong field in the offing. Former World U20 Championships medallist Brian Raats is
among the favourites, along with ACNW teammate Mpho Links. Breyton Poole (BOLA), a
former World U18 Championships champion, will also put up a fight for the gold medal.
Other athletes who are expected to stand out in field events are Olympic finalist Kyle
Blignaut and Jason van Rooyen, with the CGA stars likely to continue their domestic
Hammer throw specialists Tshepang Makhethe of Athletics Free State (AFS) and Alan
Cumming (BOLA) have also produced some hard-fought battles in recent years and they
too should have the crowd on its feet.
Former World Championships finalist Victor Hogan (BOLA) is the favourite for the discus
throw title and Valco van Wyk should produce some more entertainment for the spectators
in the pole vault.
One thing is clear though, there will be something for everyone at the ASA Senior
Championships, which is expected to produce thrills throughout the week.

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