The word on everyone’s lips of late is speed. A whole host of fast times have been set of late and the trend is set to continue on Friday 31 March at the second and final Varsity Athletics meeting, to be held at the University of Pretoria.
The fastest Junior in South Africa, Tlotliso Gift Leotlela goes up against the second fastest South African 100m sprinter of all time, Thando Roto. Intriguingly, both train with Hennie Kriel at the host University, Pretoria. Both have run Personal Bests this year and both are looking to maximize points for Tuks.
Leotlela has been threatening the SA Junior Record of former Varsity Athletics champion, Akani Simbine, and on 18 March the 18-year-old took 7/10 off the record of 10.19sec set by Simbine as far back as 2012. Just a year ago Leotlela came desperately close when he won the National Junior Title in 2016, clocking 10.20sec.
“I’ve wanted that record for a while now and finally it is mine,” said Leotlela, a Sport Science Student at the University of Pretoria. “Now that I have the record, I just want to keep on going faster and with Thando in the lineup, I know I will be pushed. Training partner or not, I won’t stand back for him.”
Leotlela showing the confidence that is so pervasive in South African sprinting these days that the athletes are even challenging each other on social media. Even with the “bravado”, the athletes know that they are only as good as their next race so the showdown is set.
“I’ve been injury free for the first time in two years now and the results are coming,” said a very confident Roto on Wednesday. “I knew I had a sub 10 in me after running that 9.98sec in February despite the wind assist.”
Roto referring to his race at UJ on 18 February where he was chased by a 2.9m/sec tail wind. Roto has every reason to be brimming with confidence after he narrowly lost to Simbine at the Gauteng North Provincial Championships in the 100m. Simbine edged Roto 9.92sec to 9.95sec. That 9.92sec is the fastest time ever run on South African soil by a South African, but it was in fact Roto who pushed Simbine all the way to the line and only in the final ten metres was Simbine able to pass Roto.
“I have always been confident but now after the 9.95sec I have the proof of just how fast I can go and that makes me more motivated. Ironically I see the middle of the race as my strong point not my start. Yet when I raced Akani I flew out of the blocks. If I can replicate that on race day we are definitely in for a really fast time. Gift is on fire too so this will be one of the highlights of the evening.”
Roto’s 9.95sec puts him second on the all-time 100m rankings list in South Africa and makes him the fifth South African to break the 10sec barrier. The others being Akani Simbine, Henricho Bruintjies, Simon Magakwe and Wayde van Niekerk.
By Manfred Seidler