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Celebrating SA's embarrassment of sprinting riches

South Africans should be celebrating the incredible wealth of sprinting talent at both junior and senior level at the SA Athletics Championships in Potchefstroom this week.

Wayde van Niekerk
Photo: Sascoc

Jamaica has for many years considered to be the world’s greatest sprint nursery.

But right now there is merit to the statement that South Africa may just be the next major production line for world-class sprinters.

It is, therefore with good reason that with one eye on the World Championships later this year in London, the sprint events will fall heavily under the spotlight in this weekend's SA Senior Athletics Championships in Potchefstroom.

When the world and Olympic champion in the 400 metres isn't even guaranteed a gold medal in the 100 and 200 metres, then one can immediately tell that South African sprinting is in good shape.

Wayde van Niekerk will have to contend with the likes of national 100m record holder Akani Simbine, SA 200m record holder Ananso Jobodwana and defending 100m champion Henricho Bruintjies in the battle for the short-sprint titles.

Then there is also the new generation of determined teenage speedsters like defending national 200m champion Clarence Munyai, who broke the SA Junior half-lap mark in Tshwane last month, while his Tuks HP training partner Gift Leotlela shattered the Under-20 100m record with a 10.12 mark on his home track.

Even 21-year-old Thando Roto has posted a sub-10 (9.95 earlier this season) in the 100m.

Athletics scribe Ockert de Villiers says in all his years as an athletics correspondent, he has never seen such a deep field in the sprinting events.

 "We are only scratching the surface in terms of depth and the young generation waiting to pounce," says De Villiers.

 "There are even championship contenders coming through in the youth and sub-youth categories who are only 18 or 19 years old," he adds.

 For one thing though, Wayde van Niekerk, who has been beaten in the 100 and 200 this season already, will use the SA Champs to set down a marker in his favourite event, the 200m.

All five of the country's Olympic medallists will be in action this weekend, as well as a whole host of national record holders in various disciplines.

 In the field, Luvo Manyonga is eager to take another step forward after making a return to the sport early last year.

 The Rio Olympic silver medallist has already broken the national Long Jump record this season with a leap of 8.62m, and he will be the favourite to earn the national title.

But he will have African champion Ruswahl Samaai and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Zarck Visser breathing down his collar.

One can therefore understand why seasoned scribe De Villiers has never been more excited about a National Championships than this year.

 LISTEN: Independent Newspapers athletics correspondent Ockert De Villiers 

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