Wayde van Niekerk was delighted his 200m race against fellow SA sprint star Akani Simbine at the Athletics South Africa invitational meeting went his way.
CAPE TOWN – True champions know when they need to step up and deliver their best, and that is exactly what Wayde van Niekerk did to beat Akani Simbine in a 200m event in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Running in the Athletics South Africa invitational meeting at the Ruimsig Athletics Stadium in Johannesburg, Van Niekerk posted a superb time of 20.10 seconds – the second-fastest in the world this year, and which was also significantly quicker than the Olympic qualifying time of 20.24.
It’s not that Simbine ran a bad race at all. In fact, the 100m star was the first to take the lead as he sprung out of the blocks, an advantage he maintained all the way to the bend.
But that is when Van Niekerk opened up the after-burners, and smoothly went past his good friend in the home straight.
And while Simbine was understandably pulling up a bit towards the end, Van Niekerk was still running hard – and pumped his fists a few times in triumph, having also negotiated some light rain that began falling a few minutes earlier.
“I’m very grateful for the race. This is what I need – I haven’t been running against quality, quality athletes in a while. So, I’m really grateful that I get to compete again. I mean, this is basically the best in the country at the moment, so it was a real blessing to be here today,” the 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder told SABC Sport in a track-side TV interview immediately after the race.
“(The time) It’s amazing. I have trained very hard – I have put in all the hard work at training. But it is a different thing to execute on the track, so I am glad that I did it here today.”
Simbine wasn’t far behind, and finished second in 20.29, with Tsebo Matsoso third in 20.48. Former world bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana ended in seventh position with 20.74, behind Botswana 400m star Isaac Makwala (20.59).
Van Niekerk added that he was not sure about whether he will participate in the national championships from April 15-17 in Pretoria, as he awaits clearance documents to travel to the United States, where he will join the training group of 200m world champion Noah Lyles in Florida ahead of the international season and the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s still not certain – as you know, I am making a move to the US, so whichever date comes first, I’ll attend to it,” he said.
“It’s going to be the usual Wayde as we know it (this season) – the goal is obviously the 400 metres, but I am going to invest in every event that I can.
“I think it’s a process (to use his 200m pace in the 400m race) to be quite patient with right now. It’s a process I need to respect. This was a positive step forward, and I will definitely use this as momentum (going) forward.”
In the 400m hurdles, former world junior champion Sokwakhana Zazini showed that he is intent on getting to Tokyo by posting a quick time of 50.13.
It is not far off the qualifying time of 48.90, and if the 21-year-old is able to compete in a couple of international races in the months to come, he certainly has the ability to reach that mark – with his personal best being 48.73.
In the women’s event, 2016 Olympic semi-finalist Wenda Nel got her season going with a victory in 56.16.
There was also a fierce battle in the men’s discus competition, where three-time African champion Victor Hogan was beaten by youngster Werner Visser. Visser’s best effort of 60.88m secured the win ahead of Hogan’s 59.07m.
1 Wayde van Niekerk 20.10
2 Akani Simbine 20.29
3 Tsebo Matsoso 20.48
1 Sokwakhana Zazini 50.13
2 Lindukuhle Gora 50.80
3 Le Roux Hamman 50.98
1 Werner Visser 60.88m
2 Victor Hogan 59.07m
3 Ryan Williams (Namibia) 54.84m
1 Beatrice Masilinga (Namibia) 22.59
2 Sherley Nekhubvi 23.29
3 Justine Palframan 23.52
1 Wenda Nel 56.16
2 Taylon Bieldt 56.26
3 Gezelle Magerman 57.39