Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Simbine and Van Niekerk headline entry lists for SA Athletics Champs

Simbine will target his sixth SA 100m title and Van Niekerk is aiming for his fourth gold medal in the 200m sprint.

As has become custom at the domestic showpiece over the last decade, sprinters Akani Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk will again turn out as the headline acts at the four-day South African Athletics Championships starting in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.

After reaching five successive major global finals in the 100m sprint, Simbine was disqualified for a false start in the semifinals at last year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

Akani SImbine
Akani Simbine in action during the 4x100m relay at last year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest. Picture: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

He bounced back, however, in the early stages of the 2024 domestic season, showing good form by setting a national 150m best of 15.04 seconds at the Backtrack Classic Shootout in Pretoria in February, and clocking 20.32 to take second place behind Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo in a rare appearance over the 200m distance at the ASA Athletix Grand Prix in Johannesburg last month.

The 30-year-old national record holder will target his sixth SA title in the 100m sprint, and he said he was eager to extend his domestic dominance in the short dash as he prepared for battle against the likes of Benjamin Richardson, Gift Leotlela and junior prospects Neo Modibe and Bayanda Walaza.

“My next race is at nationals and I want to make sure I get the job done there,” Simbine said after the ASA Athletix Grand Prix at UJ Stadium.

“I’ll be going back to the 100m at the SA Championships because I need to defend my title.”

Van Niekerk aims for 200m title

Over the 200m distance, all eyes will be on 31-year-old icon Van Niekerk at Msunduzi Stadium, as he starts his build-up to the Olympic Games in Paris in August where he hopes to reclaim the title he won in 2016.

Though is better known for his exploits in the 400m event, in which he holds the world record, Van Niekerk is a former African champion and World Championships medallist over the half-lap distance.

He has competed only once this year, running a leg of a 4x400m relay at a meeting in the United States (where he is based) last month, and he will turn out in his first individual contest of the season on home soil.

Targeting the fourth national 200m title of his career, he is up against the likes of SA record holder Clarence Munyai, Sinesipho Dambile, Richardson, Modibe and Walaza.

Other events

In other events, Adrian Wildschutt spearheads a packed field in the men’s 5,000m race, while in-form athlete Le Roux Hamman will face African champion Sokwakhana Zazini in the 400m hurdles, and Olympic finalist Kyle Blignaut will continue his domestic rivalry against Jason van Rooyen in the shot put.

It was confirmed on Wednesday, however, that Jovan van Vuuren had withdrawn on the eve of the event, after being entered as the favourite in the men’s long jump.

Among the country’s elite women, Marione Fourie and Zeney Geldenhuys will head the line-ups in the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles events respectively.

Middle-distance runner Prudence Sekgodiso will skip her specialist 800m event in order to focus on the 1 500m and 5 000m contests, and she will be confident of winning both titles.

Sprinter Viwe Jingqi is the favourite in the women’s 100m and 200m sprints, and Mine de Klerk will be looking to dominate against strong competition in the shot put and discus throw.

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Akani Simbine athletics Wayde van Niekerk