Tuks top dog backs Simbine to medal at Tokyo 2021
If the University of Pretoria director of athletics, Danie Cornelius, were a betting man, he would getting ready to place a wager on sprint ace Akani Simbine to win a medal at the Olympic Games. Cornelius believes that the reigning Commonwealth 100m champion is a dark horse going into the Games in Tokyo in July.
"Akani is in good shape. I can confidently tell you that he stands a good chance of winning a medal in Japan. He will be among the medal winners. I would put a big bet on him. If you had asked me if he stood a chance last year, the answer would have been a big no. But there is something about him this year that strikes me,” said a confident Cornelius.
The experienced sports administrator who is also the father of prominent long jump coach Neil Cornelius, has the pleasure of watching Simbine train daily. The 27-year old sprinter uses the magnificent facilities at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria to train. “He can also push the 4x100m relay team to do well. Together with the other athletes, they can produce something special at the Olympics in the relay. The relay sprinters train at the university and work together to perfect their skills. That gives me hope and belief that this year they will produce medals,” added Cornelius.
But despite finishing fifth at Rio 2016 after becoming the first South African to reach an Olympic 100m final in the post Apartheid era, some are still not convinced that Simbine can finish on the podium against the Americans and top Jamaicans. Cornelius argues that Jamaican great Johan Blake is ageing at 31 years and will not be able to keep up with Simbine. Reigning world champion Christian Coleman received a two-year ban for missing a drugs test last year. According to him, that paves the way for Simbine to shine in The Land of The Rising Sun.
“The spotlight will be on Akani this year. Everything seems to be working in his favour. He is well-rested and is in good shape, and he is working hard with his coach to improve his game. I see them hard at work every day and know that something has to give. I’m willing to bet my last penny on Akani at the Olympics,” he said.
Danie also feels that Olympic 400m champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk who is Akani’s friend, is also a medal contender notwithstanding his injury woes. Wayde returned to the track last year after being injured for over a year. “Wayde can win a medal and also lead the 4x400m relay team to the podium. I also believe that Ruswahl Samaai will get us a medal in the long jump. I’d say we can get four medals from athletics at the Olympics in Japan,” explained Cornelius.