Sport

Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
3 May 2021
1:29 pm

SA’s relay champions: ‘We’ll let our feet do the talking’

Wesley Botton

Due to Covid restrictions and concerns, some global giants were missing from the entry lists, including the United States, Jamaica and the United Kingdom.

The South African men's team celebrate winning the 4x100m relay race at the IAAF World Athletics Relay competition in Poland. Picture: Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

Though the look on his face suggested he knew they had taken it, Akani Simbine says he wasn’t certain that he had carried the national team to the gold medal until the results popped up on the stadium screen in Silesia at the weekend.

Producing a stunning finish at the World Athletics Relays, Simbine received the baton in second position before slamming it down on the anchor leg in the men’s 4x100m final.

Shutting down a significant gap held by the Brazilian team, Simbine dipped on the line and stopped the clock at 38.71 seconds, snatching victory by 0.01.

While the Brazilian squad were later disqualified for stepping outside their lane, it was a thrilling finish which gave South Africa its first gold medal at the relay showpiece.

“I knew I had caught him and I knew it was going to be really close, but when I crossed the line it was dead,” said Simbine, the national 100m record holder.

“I’m just glad I was able to run well in the cold conditions.”

ALSO READ: Simbine carries SA team to gold at World Relays

Despite the historic win, the result was somewhat deceptive.

Due to Covid restrictions and concerns, some global giants were missing from the entry lists, including the United States, Jamaica and the United Kingdom.

The cold conditions also prevented fast times, while the real ‘world title’ needed to be earned at the biennial World Athletics Championships.

“We are not world champions but we are champions at the World Relays,” Simbine admitted.

“But we came here with the goal of winning and I’m happy that we did the job.

“I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and it’s going to be a good show at the Olympics.”

Though they shouldn’t get too excited, the SA team’s performance in Silesia was a useful effort.

The squad booked their place at the Tokyo Olympics in August and the national quartet – Simbine, Clarence Munyai, Gift Leotlela and Thando Dlodlo – boosted their confidence ahead of the Games.

With the likes of Henricho Bruintjies, Emile Erasmus, Simon Magakwe, Anaso Jobodwana and Wayde van Niekerk potentially strengthening the team if they are available to compete in Tokyo, the SA squad should be confident of targeting a medal in the sprint relay at the multi-sport spectacle.

National 200m record holder Clarence Munyai was reluctant, however, to make any bold predictions.

Coached by Paul Gorries, the relay squad preferred to keep a low profile in the build-up to the Olympics.

“I don’t want to say too much about Tokyo,” said Munyai.

“We’re just going to let our feet do the talking on the track.”