Akani Simbine, Viwe Jingqi rule 100m as Wayde van Niekerk ‘shakes legs out a bit’

Akani Simbine (red vest) crosses the finish line to win the SA 100m title in Pietermaritzburg on Friday. Photo: BackpagePix

Akani Simbine (red vest) crosses the finish line to win the SA 100m title in Pietermaritzburg on Friday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 19, 2024


The king is alive – long live Akani Simbine! The 30-year-old speedster clinched his sixth SA 100m title by speeding away from the rest of the field in the national championships in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.

Simbine basically started his season at the Msunduzi Athletics Stadium this week, but showed that he is in top shape as he stopped the clock on 10.01 seconds to beat teenager Bayanda Walaza, who took silver in 10.27, with Bradley Nkoana third in 10.29.

Having been disqualified in the semi-finals of last year’s world championships in Budapest due to a false start, Simbine is trying to time his progress to the Paris Olympics later this year to perfection, and he made a solid beginning in Pietermaritzburg.

Having produced 10.07 in his heat on Thursday, a strong headwind held him back to 10.27 in the semi-finals.

But on a hot Friday, Simbine kept his head down out of the blocks and then surged forward at the halfway mark to just miss out on a sub-10-second time.

“I’m still king – that’s all I’ve got to say! But happy to come out here and defend my title, and put on a show for the people. It was a good line-up, and happy for the race and for the win,” Simbine told SuperSport TV afterwards.

“Today was just about executing the first phase of my race, and building up from there – see how I feel, and taking it in my stride.

“This is home, and any track in South Africa, I will run fast. I’m always running at nationals, always want to defend my title – and I did, and I’m still king... for the sixth time.”

In the women’s 100m final, 19-year-old Viwe Jingqi showed her class to hold off the experience Tamzin Thomas to grab the gold medal in 11.23, with Thomas second in 11.47 and Gabriella Marais third with 11.67.

Jingqi is focusing on the Under-20 world championships in Peru in August, but is still hopeful of cracking the Olympic qualifying time of 11.07 before that.

“We’ve been working for this since 2022, because the last time I came (to the nationals), I couldn’t run because of a niggle,” Jingqi told SuperSport.

“But I expected it (the victory), I won’t lie! I knew it was going to happen.

“The progress is coming. I don’t want to peak now, and the juniors (world championships) is in August – so this is just the beginning (of the season).

“I know we are going to work towards that Olympic qualifier.”

The other big name on the track on Friday was 400m world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, who kicked off his nationals with a comfortable win in his 200m heat in a time of 20.57, ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals and final.

“It was good – got to shake the legs out a bit. It’s a 200, so if I can do interviews, then I’m not tired!” Van Niekerk told SuperSport.

“We will take it step by step. Last year, I did a lot of 400s, so I just want to get back to enjoying the speed side of things, and why I love this sport – and hopefully use it to my advantage moving forward.

“Then later, fine-tuning myself into the 400. You can’t underestimate anyone, but I’m here to put myself in a comfortable position, and set myself well for the season.”

Some of the highlights of the day included Zeney Geldenhuys just edging out Rogail Joseph (54.84) to win the women’s 400m hurdles final in 54.72, while Lindukuhle Gora (49.45) held off Sabelo Dhlamini (49.48) in the men’s 400m hurdles final.

In the field events, Cheswill Johnson won the men’s long jump title with an 8.22m leap, while Victor Hogan claimed the men’s discus gold medal with a 61.13m effort.

In a thrilling men’s high jump final, Brian Raats was the champion on count-back with a 2.25m height, ahead of Keagon Fourie and Breyton Poole.