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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'You don't need to relocate to Pretoria to be considered as a top sprinter' says Olympian Nene

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

Durban-based sprinter Zakithi Nene is delighted to be included in the Team SA's Olympic squad. The 23-year-old is amongst four athletes selected for the 4×400m relay team including Oscar Mavundla, Lythe Pillay, Ranto Dikgale, and Derrick Mokaleng. In May, the man who runs for Fast Feet Track Club represented the country at the World Relay Championships and is elated to be going one step further to wear the green and gold at the biggest athletics stage in the world.

"I'm feeling excited to be in the Olympic squad. This is what we have been pushing for with my coach since last year," said the 23-year old who is coached by experienced athletics coach Victor Vaz.

Zakithi Nene is the only KZN sprinter to make the South African Olympic team. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

"But unfortunately the games got postponed so to achieve it later is a wonderful thing. I did expect to be included in the team ( Relay) because last year my coach said I have got the abilities and strength to be in the squad if I can work hard and which is what happened later on. The cancellation of the Olympics was a blessing in disguise because at the start of last season I wasn't firing on all cylinders so that delay gave me time to focus on my training and improve as an athlete," said the man who set his personal best of 45.03 in May.

Nene's love for Olympics started at a young age. He was inspired by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the man considered the greatest sprinter of all times. "I remember the 2008 Olympic Games because I watched those games with a full and clear indication of what was going on," he reminisced.

"At the same time, I was at the beginning of my athletics career and I told myself I need to be at Olympics one day. Funny enough I wanted to make it for 100m but as I grew older I became a 400m specialist. The athlete that inspired me was Usain Bolt. In those games, he ran a world record and the iconic picture of him with the lighting in the background made people call him " Lighting Bolt". That motivated me to go this far and believe I can achieve anything in life," he told #TheTopRunner.

Nene in action at the World Relay Championships in Poland earlier this year where he represented the country. Photo Credit: Zakithi Nene.

Being the only sprinter from KwaZulu-Natal, Nene believes his achievement will motivate and inspire the provincial running community. And he has high hopes for the Olympics including making sure his relay team gets medal."To be the only sprinter from KwaZulu-Natal in the team it shows that you don't need to relocate to Pretoria to be considered as a top sprinter," explains Nene, who's a University of KwaZulu-Natal BCom Accounting Graduate.

"This achievement will motivate coaches, athletes in my province to believe in the work they do and push themselves to the limit. It shows that with a great mindset any sprinter can achieve unthinkable things regardless of the environment they are in. My target is to run a very good time and assist the team to get a medal. In 4×400m relay teams, I feel Jamaicans are not strong this year and our biggest competitors will be the USA and Netherlands. The medal will cement us as the powerhouse in the 4×400m especially in the Olympics which is the biggest stage in the world," he said.

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