'I should be making a global final' - Shawn Maswanganyi positive ahead of World Champs
Updated: Jul 30
As the World championships draw closer, the eyes of the athletics-loving South African pubic will be on the country's medal hopefuls. Wayde van Niekerk's return to form that saw him dominate the 400m from 2015 to 2017 and Akani Simbine's consistency on the Diamond League bring hope that the team will return from Hungary with a medal. Aside from van Niekerk and Simbine, there are also the likes of Zakhithi Nene, Zeney van der Walt and Marione Fourie who are all likely to reach the finals of their events where anything could happen. Another athlete who is aiming to reach the final in Budapest next month is Shawn Maswanganyi who believes this is his year to do what he has never done before.
"When I go into a championships I wanna put my best foot forward," said the US-based sprinter. "The way it stands right now for me to be able to compete for a medal then I need to be looking at times round about 9.80. That's a time that pretty much guarantees you a medal. Right now, I'm not far off but I'm working on it and me and my coach understand that everything is a building block."
And that coach is none other than the man who was named athlete of the century - multiple Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis. The legendary American sprinter and long jumper is now a coach at Houston University where Soweto-born Maswanganyi enrolled in 2020. Under Lewis' guidance, the 22-year-old has improved tremendously setting personal bests of 9.91 over 100m and 19.99 for 200m at the NCAA Division One Championships in Austin, Texas this June. The St Alban's College matriculant says Lewis has been like a father to him.
"It's a badge of honour because not many people have that privilege of having someone who's done it all as their mentor. So that's why I did the research before choosing Houston. I looked at the numbers behind it. So with Carl I could see that so many collegiate records being broken and so many NCAA champions are coming as a result of him transitioning into the sprints programme. I see him as a father figure and I can connect with him even outside of track. He'll even call me at 5am in the morning and tell me that he's been thinking about my race. I feel like it's the little things like that, that go a long way," said the man who set an SA U20 Record of 10.06 in March 2020.
With an accomplished and experienced campaigner in his corner and the experience of having represented the country at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 where he reached the semi-finals, Phatutshedzo is confident of going one better this time around. That's because even though Maswanganyi was knocked out in the heats of the 200m at his maiden World Championships in Oregon last year, things are different this time. His success as a junior, his current form and his legendary mentor all lead him to believe that he is just as good as some of the best in the world.
"I think the first key milestone was in 2019 when I won the African U20 Champs. It really opened my eyes because I believed that I could be world class. But it would be unfair for me to sit here and say that I wanna come home with the gold medal. That means I'm not being realistic with myself. If I'm realistic right now, I say to myself the times I'm running right now mean that I should be making a global final and having a shot at that medal."
Catch Maswanganyi in action from the 1st of August at the World University Games in Chengdu, China where he is representing South Africa.