Potch set for track thriller

Usain Bolt of Jamaica will be backing   friend Wayde van Niekerk this weekend.  /Xavier Laine/Getty Images
Usain Bolt of Jamaica will be backing friend Wayde van Niekerk this weekend. /Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Potchefstroom has for years served as the training ground for some of the top international track stars but this weekend's SA Senior Track and Field Championships could hand the North West dorpie its biggest athletics gig yet.

Even sprint legend Usain Bolt - though he'll be following from far away in Jamaica - has expressed interest in the championships that start today and end tomorrow at the McArthur Athletics Stadium.

This is where the spotlight will be on his friends Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbine, who will headline the short sprints that promise to go down to the wire.

"S/o [shout out] to South African nationals for athletics on this week. @WaydeDreamer you know I'll be watching #FillupPotch," tweeted Bolt on Wednesday, adding more weight of expectation on the Olympic and world 400m champion.

The scrutiny of Van Niekerk's every move has been intensified after the Bloemfontein-based runner was recently granted his wish to attempt a 200m and 400m double at the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

In Potch, the world record holder over one lap will line up in the short sprints.

The 24-year-old - with a personal best of 9.98sec and 19.94 - is set to face off against the likes of Simbine (9.89) Thando Roto (9.95), Henricho Bruintjies (9.97) and Simon Magakwe (9.98) in the 100m. The quintet is SA's exclusive sub-10 club.

Van Niekerk will also have his work cut out in the 200m, with Simbine (19.95 season best) and other hopefuls such as 19-year-old defending champion Clarence Munyai (20.10) all eager to prevail.

Add to the mix 2015 World Championships 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana who is gradually taking off after a long-term hip injury. The Potch meeting will provide athletes the chance to chase qualifying marks for the world champs.

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