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Yet that was only good enough for the silver medal at the Gauteng North championships‚ because he was up against Akani Simbine‚ the country’s fastest gun‚ who finished 0.03sec ahead of him.
Roto didn’t mind‚ beaming at his new personal best and realising he had just leap-frogged Henricho Bruintjies (9.97)‚ Wayde van Niekerk and Simon Magakwe (9.98).
But Simbine was disappointed with his poor start that arguably cost him the opportunity of matching or improving his 9.89 national record.
Roto‚ 21‚ one of the new generation of rising sprint stars under coach Hennie Kriel‚ had been threatening to make the breakthrough for a while‚ with a wind-assisted 9.98 effort last month.
The final year sports science student takes his training and studies so seriously he insists he doesn’t have time for a social life.
In matric he was given the Rock monicker because he worked and trained hard.
“It stuck‚” added Roto‚ who attended Settlers Agricultural High School in Limpopo before moving to the Pretoria school.
“My mother wanted to teach me to be a responsible person‚” he recalled with a laugh.
“Back then she was on my case‚ ‘Thando do this’‚ ‘Thando do that’‚ ‘did you do your homework?’ So she took me to boarding school.”
Roto first realised he was capable of going sub-10 last year when he qualified for the 100m final at the African championships.
“Most people there were running sub-10s‚” said Roto‚ originally from Dimbaza‚ close to King William’s Town‚ the home of 200m star Anaso Jobodwana.
Roto took heart when watching Jobodwana making the Olympic final at London 2012.
“I saw this guy‚ also from King William’s Town‚ and I thought ‘he’s doing it big’. I can also do it big.”
Jobodwana won the 200m bronze at the 2015 world championships‚ and Roto says he is aiming for the Olympic podium down the line.
“I want to be there. I want to be like Asafa Powell [the Jamaican with the most sub-10 100m runs] — week in week out‚ sub 10.”
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Roto‚ who was hampered by hamstring injuries for the better part of the past five years.
He missed 2012 and most of 2013‚ but he returned to get to the world junior championships in 2014.
The next year was another disaster‚ but since then he’s been on the up.
Roto says Kriel’s success is based on his ability to introduce new methods.
“He’s an evolving coach. With each off season his programme changes.
“He betters himself every off season so he doesn’t do things he did back in 2012. If you compare the things we do now and the things we did then‚ it’s a totally different system.”
Roto is aiming to go sub-10 at the South African championships in Potchefstroom next month.
“I’m not there for the win‚ I’m there to better myself.” - TMG Digital