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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I love running again' - Akani 'Mr Cool' Simbine is back and says things will be different this time

Updated: May 17

Something is different about Akani Simbine and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he said ‘I do’ to his #ForeverYena in January or maybe that he recently fathered his first child. Whatever it is, Akani is not the same man he was when he lined up for the Olympic final at #Tokyo2020

“I’m far more calm. I don’t have stress. As I was years ago when everybody was calling me Mr. Cool and Mr Chill and all these things - I’ve picked that thing up again. I know what I need to do on the track. I think I’m more content with myself.”

Simbine also anchored the SA Senior Men's 4x100m relay team to Olympic qualification at the World Relays in the Bahamas in early May. The team will be hoping to win a first 4x100m Olympic relay medal in France. Photo Credit: Anton Geyser.

During those 10 seconds in that Covid-delayed competition in August 2021, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion and 2016 Olympic finalist had been expected to win South Africa’s first ever 100m Olympic medal. But the man from Kempton Park looked nervous and cut a dejected figure when he crossed the finish line in 9.93 to finish in the dreaded fourth place.

“I think I just put a lot of pressure on myself and a lot of stress on myself. I forgot why I was doing this thing. I forgot why I was in the sport and why I loved the sport. It became more of achieving goals and doing things that my heart wasn’t in it,” he reflected after winning a seventh national 100m title in Pietermaritzburg in April.

Now 30 year’s old, the best 100m sprinter that the country has ever produced seems to be far more self-assured and his new found confidence has everything to do with the introspection that he has done off the track. 

Simbine pictured with his new bride after their nuptials. Photo Credit: Akani Simbine.

“I think now I’m in a really good space where my heart is in it and wants to do this thing. I’m enjoying this thing again. I love running again and I’m having fun with this thing. It could be marriage. It could be family. Marriage comes with growth. It’s an important part of my life, something that affects my running and supports my running. It’s a big boost knowing that my wife supports me, my parents support me, my kids support me. My kids see me as a hero. My cousins and my nephews see me as a hero. I’m done at home. I can go knowing that they are happy and they are supporting me.”

So what about that elusive medal? When the South African Sports Confederation  and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) announced the first iteration of the Olympic team that will represent the nation at #Paris2024, Simbine was named as the only 100m sprinter to have qualified for the Games. SASCOC announced that gold medalists will earn R400 000, R200 000 for silver and R75 000 for bronze which will be added incentive for the Adidas athlete to break the athletics major championships drought that dates back to the 2017 World Championships in London.

The Athletics team that will represent South Africa at the Olympic Games in Paris, France in July and August. Photo Credit: ASA Media.

“It’s a very important year. I think I am much stronger. I think I’m in better shape than I was back then. The way I feel mentally, the way I feel emotionally and the way I feel in my body in the gym and on the track - it’s different. Everything is gearing up for me to run fast,” said the man who ran his lifetime best 9.84 just three weeks before the Tokyo Olympics to announce himself as a medal contender only to miss out by on the podium by four one hundredths of a second. The fastest man in South Africa, who in 2021 was the fastest man in Africa, says things will be different in this time.

“Before I used to run a lot. I used to run AGN’s or CGA’s and then I’ll run on the Grand Prix. I think that puts a lot of strain on my body and then by the time I get to the World Champs or the end of the season, I’ve taken a lot out of my body that we didn’t have time to put back in. So now we are just biding our time and being more strategic and in the process of building a proper season as we go into the games.”

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