Akani Simbine defied a deafening Australian crowd at the Carrara stadium on Friday morning as he hunted down their yellow-clad runner to win the first 4x100m relay heat for South Africa.
When the Commonwealth Games 100m champion took the baton from Anaso Jobodwana‚ the SA quartet was lying second behind the home team by a good few metres. And the vociferous crowd was loving every second of it.
Perhaps they thought the gap was too big to close‚ but Simbine didn’t. He overhauled Josh Clarke on the final metres before stopping the clock on 38.71sec.
“I told myself‚ ‘Let’s just disappoint this crowd a little bit‚’ because they were getting a bit too loud for me‚” Simbine said with a smile.
SA qualified for Saturday’s final and their time was fourth-fastest overall behind England (38.15)‚ Jamaica (38.44) and Nigeria (38.52)‚ who all ran in the second heat. But it nearly came unstuck at the penultimate changeover from Emile Erasmus to Jobodwana.
Erasmus had to stretch to get the baton into Jobodwana’s hand in time‚ and for a split second it seemed it might be Beijing all over again; Henricho Bruintjies was unable to find Jobodwana in the relay heats at the 2015 world championships‚ and ended up doing a swan dive on the track.
“I was thinking about jumping at one point‚” said Erasmus‚ who came into the team to replace injured Clarence Munyai.
He had been on standby to replace Jobodwana‚ and therefore the pair had not practised handovers.
“It was just a few centimetres too far and I was overstretched at my max and I was just thinking jump‚ now or never. I just put it in.”
Jobodwana said he had fortunately looked back just in time‚ which allowed Erasmus to find him.
“We didn’t even do exchanges until today‚ me and him. Obviously from today we can just learn and take it tomorrow.
“When you haven’t done it under pressure like me — these guys have more experience in the relay than I have — I saw five people moving and I was trying to focus on Emile and I saw him move.
“I think with that adrenaline he seemed closer than he was and I was‚ like‚ if I don’t move now he’s just going to run up on me. Then I moved and I’m like‚ I’m not finding him at all‚ then I looked a little.”
The foursome are confident of ironing out the glitches and landing a medal.
“We’re still in for a podium‚” said Bruintjies‚ the 100m silver medallist here who started the relay for SA. “It’s just a small little thing and it’s early morning so the guys were still sleeping. This is us in bed now.”
They also believe they will break the 38.35 national record the team set finishing fourth last time around at Glasgow 2014.
Simbine and Bruintjies are the two survivors of that outfit‚ which also featured Simon Magakwe and Ncincilili Titi.
In the men’s javelin‚ Phil-Mar van Rensburg advanced to Saturday’s final‚ hitting the 78m automatic qualifying mark on the dot with his first attempt of the morning.
The javelin final kicks off at 6.35am (SA time) while the relay is scheduled for 6.40am.
By David Isaacson -TimesLIVE