Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

World Athletics Champs: Five stars to watch in the SA team

The nation's medal charge will be led by sprinters Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbine.

A team of 36 athletes, including 24 men and 12 women, has been selected to represent South Africa at the World Athletics Championships starting in Budapest next week.

After missing out on the podium at the last two editions of the biennial track and field spectacle, we take a look at some of the athletes in the national squad who will be aiming to end that drought.

Wayde van Niekerk (400m)

Chasing gold at the highest level for the first time in seven years, Van Niekerk looks ready to go.

After making his initial comeback from a knee injury in 2020, he has traversed a long and arduous path, but he finally seems to be back to his best.

ALSO READ: Wayde van Niekerk relieved to show he can still put up a fight

He’s not ranked first in the world, but Van Niekerk is unbeaten in the one-lap sprint this year and he’s won three Diamond League races.

The world record holder is starting to show more confidence again, and he has the strength and experience to secure his third world title.

Akani Simbine (100m)

Perhaps the most consistent sprinter in the world, Simbine is dangerous at his best, but he has been criticised for not performing when it counts most at major championships.

He has finished either fourth or fifth at the last three editions of the World Championships and he will be gunning for a maiden medal.

Akani Simbine, SA athletics team
Akani Simbine will compete in the 100m and 4x100m relay events at the World Athletics Championships. Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images

In excellent form this year, Simbine is ranked only 15th in the world with his 9.92 season’s best, but the SA record holder has won two Diamond League races and has already beaten defending champion Fred Kerley.

If he gets off to a good start in the final, he has as good a chance as anyone.

Shaun Maswanganyi (100m/200m)

Locked into commitments on the US collegiate circuit, we don’t hear much about Maswanganyi, but he has been in spectacular shape this season, setting personal bests of 9.91 (100m) and 19.99 (200m) in Texas in June.

The 22-year-old rocket reached the 100m and 200m semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, and he will be eager to take a step up by booking his place in both finals, which are expected to be wide open contests.

He will also join anchor athlete Simbine in spearheading the SA 4x100m relay team as they chase a place on the podium.

Marione Fourie (100m hurdles)

Ok, this is a long shot at best, but Fourie has been the brightest prospect this season among a relatively young women’s contingent in the SA team.

The 21-year-old athlete has used her snappy technique to rip 0.38 off her personal best this year and she tore the SA record to pieces with a spectacular 12.55 clocking in Switzerland last month. And she looks set on a path to stardom if she continues on her current trajectory.

She will be looking to gain experience, but if Fourie can grab a spot in the final, that might be all she needs for her talent to explode on the global stage.

Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles)

Yes, another long shot, but hear us out.

Alkana is better than his results in recent years might suggest. Fully dedicated and committed to his task, he is lightning fast over the hurdles.

To be accurate, he’s too fast, and though he hits the track with fury, he hits hurdles too. And it slows him down.

He is 33 years old but Alkana is the African record holder and he carries a tremendous wealth of experience.

If he can get into the final and find that one clean race he needs, he could cause an electric upset.

Outside chances

At a major championship, it’s always possible that someone produces some shock and awe, and there will always be plenty of outside hopes.

Perhaps the best of them are Kyle Blignaut, who hasn’t been phenomenal this year but is entirely focused on the World Championships, and middle-distance runners Prudence Sekgodiso and Ryan Mphahalele, who both have the guts to put up a fight.

The national team also includes sprinters Luxolo Adams and Zakithi Nene, who are previous winners at top-flight Diamond League meetings.

SA team

Men: Shaun Maswanganyi (100m/200m/4x100m), Akani Simbine (100m/4x100m), Benjamin Richardson (100m/4x100m), Luxolo Adams (200m/4x100m), Sinesipho Dambile (200m/4x100m), Wayde van Niekerk (400m), Zakithi Nene (400m), Lythe Pillay (400m), Tshepo Tshite (1 500m), Ryan Mphahlele (1 500m), Adriaan Wildschutt (10 000m), Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles), Melikhaya Frans (marathon), Simon Sibeko (marathon), Tumelo Motlagale (marathon), Wayne Snyman (35km walk), Cheswill Johnson (long jump), Kyle Blignaut (shot put), Burger Lambrechts (shot put), Victor Hogan (discus throw), Kyle Rademeyer (pole vault), Douw Smit (javelin throw), Rivaldo Roberts (4x100m), Clarence Munyai (4x100m)

Women: Marli Viljoen (400m), Zeney van der Walt (400m/400m hurdles), Miranda Coetzee (400m), Prudence Sekgodiso (800m), Carina Viljoen (1 500m), Marione Fourie (100m hurdles), Taylon Bieldt (100m hurdles), Irvette van Zyl (marathon), Yolandi Stander (discus throw), Ischke Senekal (shot put), Jo-Ane van Dyk (javelin throw), Mire Reinstorf (pole vault)

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Akani Simbine athletics Wayde van Niekerk

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