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Olympic countdown: Akani Simbine, hoping for the big leap (Profile)

New Delhi : Akani Simbine, the fastest man from South Africa, has consistently reached the 100m finals in international meets, only for the podium to elude him. The Tokyo Olympics offers him the opportunity to make the leap from a finalist to a medallist.Growing up in Gauteng, Simbine used to play football, bringing out his ability to run speedily. Soon, Simbine made the shift to track and field for good. Along with 400m world record holder Wayne van Niekerk, Simbine is the shining light in a new era of sprinters from South Africa.A champion in the event at the Continental level, as well as the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where he got the better of Yohan Blake, Simbine is yet to crack the podium code at the international arena.The 27-year-old first burst onto the international scene at Rio Olympics 2016, where he became the first South African male sprinter to reach the 100m Olympics final in 84 years. Simbine finished fifth in the final, missing the podium by milliseconds. He went on to repeat the standing of Rio at the 2017 World Championships in London.
Moving closer towards an elusive podium spot, Simbine finished fourth in the 100m final at the 2019 World Championships in Doha. In both Rio and Doha, Simbine was 0.03 seconds behind Canada’s Andre de Grasse. That sums up his so close yet so far story in the finals. The soft-spoken Simbine, to his credit, has never lost hope of making it to the podium.This year saw Simbine smash the African record in July. His time of 9.84 seconds in Hungary surpassed the 9.85 seconds set by Nigeria’s Olusoji Fasuba in Qatar in 2006. His timing in Hungary is also the second fastest timing of this year. On the same day, he won the 200m race with a timing of 20.25 seconds.Simbine is aware that he needs to put in more effort if he has to finish in the top three. “I’ve had quite the journey, I’ve made it to the finals of the Olympics and the world champs, but now it feels like everything is coming together. I’m really prepared to work hard and make sure I am ready to the best I can, to get onto the podium. That is the big goal, to stand on the Olympic podium,” said Simbine to the Tokyo 2020 website.



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