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Maswanganyi ‘fired up’ to dominate in Paris


Speaking from Houston this week, Shaun Maswanganyi says he is determined to go at least one step further than he did at the Tokyo Games in 2021, where he reached the semi-finals in the 100m and 200m.

(From left) Slovakia’s Jan Volko, South Africa’s Shaun Maswanganyi, Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards compete in the men’s 200m heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. Picture: Giuseppe CACACE, AFP

Ashfak Mohamed

Shaun Maswanganyi feels that he is mentally stronger, and wants to “show the world what I can do” at the Paris Olympics.

Maswanganyi – who runs for the University of Houston on the American college circuit, where he is coached by US legend Carl Lewis – is one of few 23-year-old sprinters who has already had a taste of the Olympic Games, and he intends to use that experience to good effect in Paris in August.

Speaking to Independent Newspapers from Houston this week, Maswanganyi says he is determined to go at least one step further than he did at the Tokyo Games in 2021, where he reached the semi-finals in the 100m and 200m.

Just last week, he was victorious in the Big 12 college event in Texas, and has been posting quick times ahead of next week’s NCAA college finals in Eugene, Oregon.

He clocked a wind-assisted 9.89sec (+2.5m/s) in the 100m at the NCAA qualifiers last week, and 20.08 in the 200m. With his personal bests standing at 9.91 and 19.99 respectively, he wants to get his timing just right to peak at the Olympics.

Maswanganyi also hopes to qualify outright for the 100m, although he currently should get there on ranking points, in what is his last college season – having earned an economics degree at the University of Houston.

“I look at my overall performances so far, and I am definitely performing better and (hope) that it can translate to a final. If you run 9.9, there is a 99% chance that you will make the final,” Maswanganyi said.

“It’s all about going through the rounds and running the race that you can duplicate – not running anything new in a competition.

“I’m a checkpoint type of person. In Paris, this is what I want to achieve, and in order to achieve that, this is what I need to do – be consistent in my competitions.

“To get past the first round, you need a 10.0. Then to make the final, I’m going to need to run 9.9 – like it happened in last year’s NCAA final.

“In the 200m, you need to (run) 20.8 to get through the first round, and then 20.0 or 19.9 to get to the final.

“I prefer the 200m more, as it is more relaxed. You don’t feel people breathing down your neck. In the 200m, there is a break stagger, and I can think about it a lot more.

“I feel like this year I am coming back better and stronger. Mentally I am there as well, and I just want to show the world what I can do.”

Apart from the 100m and 200m, Maswanganyi will be a key part of the SA 4x100m relay team, which is likely to comprise of himself, Akani Simbine, Benjamin Richardson and Bradley Nkoana.

The SA squad missed out on the final at the World Relays event in the Bahamas in early May, but still qualified for the Olympics and will be going all out to reach the podium – having made it to the world championship final in Budapest last year, only to drop the baton in the final.

“It takes confidence, and if you don’t practise enough you are not going to have the confidence. We need to make sure that we capitalise on the practice days,” Maswanganyi said.

“It’s just unfortunate that I am based here and I can’t even come to the relay camps as it’s quite expensive and support is limited. My school can only pay for so many flights.

“But the time we ran last year, 37.72 (in Budapest) – if we had to run that time in the final, we would have medalled.

“We can give USA competition just like that. We might not have four 9.9 guys, but because of the exchanges, and we execute it well there …

“With the SA team, we could run 37.4, which puts us in gold medal contention.”

While the Americans such as world champion Noah Lyles, Fred Kerley and Christian Coleman are the favourites for the 100m title, Maswanganyi – who was ranked 15th in the world last year with his 9.91, which was quicker than Simbine’s 9.92 (18th) – has the belief to cause an upset in both sprint events.

“It’s all about experience. In track and field, the more different experiences you go through, it allows you to become a better athlete,” he said.

“You become more confident. I got through the first round in both sprints (at the Tokyo Olympics) and made it to the semi-finals, and just narrowly missed out on the finals.

“Now I know where to focus on technically. I missed out on the 200m final because I had an issue on the turn and rushed my race. I had a stutter step and lost my momentum.

“But now I have tried to master that skill, and we have a chance in Paris more than we did in Tokyo. I am in great shape, and let’s go for it!

“People don’t realise how saturated the 100m is, especially the men. There are so many people who are good at it and compete. The 200m is much more open. But it’s something that fires me up, and I always say I want to be the world’s fastest man,” he concluded.

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