Having taken as much as they can from a breakthrough 2015 season, South Africa’s fastest men are hoping to go even quicker and put up a fight against the global elite at next year’s Rio Olympics.
Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies, both products of the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, set a joint national 100m record of 9.97 seconds this season.
Their performances played a key role in a superb sprint campaign which saw 10 SA records either being equalled or broken in Olympic distances ranging from 100m to 400m.
Simbine, the national junior 100m record holder, became the first South African to dip under 10 seconds on two occasions.
He reached the 100m and 200m semifinals at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August, missing out on a place in the short sprint final by 0.03.
With compatriots Wayde van Niekerk (400m gold) and Anaso Jobodwana (200m bronze) both bagging medals at the biennial showpiece, Simbine believed he too could reach similar heights over the next few seasons.
“This year I ran more Diamond League races, which was about getting out there and being exposed to the best of the best and the highest level of competition, which was amazing,” Simbine said.
“I’ve learned a lot as a young athlete, and I think building up to the Olympics and the next world champs (in 2017) and the 2020 Olympics, I will be able to use the stuff I’ve learned in the last two years.”
The 22-year-old speedster was eager to capitalise on his form and take his career to another level.
“Going into the new season I think I just have to work as hard as I can to get to that level where I’m consistently running faster.”
Bruintjies, also 22, was perhaps the surprise of the 2015 season, chopping 0.20 off his personal best during the campaign.
He also booked his place in the 100m semifinals in Beijing, and he hoped to take another step forward by reaching the final in Rio.
“If I had run a personal best on the day (of the World Championships semifinals) I could have been in the final, so that made me see that whenever you get the opportunity you need to be ready. That’s one of the things I learned this year,” Bruintjies said.
“You have to be on top of your game every time you get an opportunity, so that’s what I’m focussing on.”
Like Simbine, Bruintjies said he was working hard in the off-season in order to hit top form at the Olympics.
“You’ve got to try different things to get to a different level, so I’m trying to push the limits and get as strong as possible by training as hard as possible,” he said.
“The first thing I’ve changed is my mindset. Secondly, I’m trying to do everything I did in the past but just five times as hard because the Olympics is a once in a lifetime experience.”
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