'We are targeting a gold medal in the 100m' - Simbine's coach
Commonwealth Games 100m champion Akani Simbine's heart is set on doing the double at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in July. Simbine's renowned coach Werner Prinsloo told #TheTopRunner that the celebrated sprinter has an unfinished business in the 200m.
Simbine clocked 9.99 seconds to win the Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) provincial championships two weeks ago. He then registered 20.29 seconds to finish second behind Wayde van Niekerk at the ASA Athletix Invitational powered by AVANTI at the Ruimsig Stadium a few days later. The coach says he is in great condition and slowly peaking for the European season.
“So far, so good. Training has been going well, there were some issues around when would the AGN championships would take place and it took place later than it normally does. We opened our season a little bit later than normal. However, the time that he ran was good and we are happy with his progress so far. This week is the SA senior champs and we are looking forward to taking part and we will see what will happen," said Prinsloo.
“We decided to do the 200m because it was on the program at the invitational meet. Besides, he had not run a 200m event in over two years and we wanted to see how he would handle it after not running it for such a long time. He was getting tired towards the end because of the previous races. He has to run a qualifying time in the 200m and needs to be in the top three in the country to be able to be selected for Team SA's Olympic 200m team. I know that his heart is set on doing the double at the Olympics," explained the coach.
AK47 as he has been nicknamed will run the 100m and 200m events at the SA Senior Track and Field Championships starting on Friday at the University of Pretoria's Tuks Bestmed athletics Stadium. Without a doubt, the 27-year-old sprint ace is a medal prospect for Team SA going into the Olympic Games. Prinsloo said if he is selected as the flag bearer at the Olympics by his country, the SA 100m record holder would accept the honour, but it would not put him under pressure to deliver a podium finish.
“His heart is set on doing the double at the Olympics and he feels that he can contend and get to the final. He is not strong in the 200m and it is not his main event, but he feels that he has some unfinished business in the 200m. He wants to run a better time than he did and if we decide to go in the 200m we will need to see a little bit of change in his Olympic preparations," he said.
Simbine has consistently dipped under the sub-10 mark in the 100m every year since 2016. “He runs good times because he is healthy and takes take of himself," said Prinsloo. At the SA Championships, Simbine and his coach have set themselves the target of winning their events and also using the event to prepare for the Olympics. “If conditions are good we want a sub-10 finish and run a solid and consistent time for the European season. After the SA, we have the World relay in Poland and we will leave for our base in Italy in May. Although we have no confirmed overseas races yet, we will know closer to the time of travel," he said.
Prinsloo said they would target the Diamond League, where the 100m and 200m races are happening but would restrict their travels. “We will make sure that he is in the best shape when we get to the Olympics and it is time to go for the big title. We are targeting a gold medal in the 100m final at the Olympics. The pressure is there and the pressure comes from inside internally because we know that it is possible to achieve our objective," said an optimistic Prinsloo.
On the possibility of Simbine being named as the flag bearer, Prinsloo they would go for it.
Simbine is one of the senior athletes in the small team that would represent SA at the Olympics. “There are certain expectations internally, but he knows how to handle the pressure and if he is selected to be the flag bearer it would be a proud moment for him. The previous Olympic bearers Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk won gold medals and maybe that would be a good thing for Akani. It would motivate him to go on and win a gold medal. We have unfinished business going into this Olympics for myself and him," added Prinsloo.