Isaac Makwala eyes elite club ruled by Wayde van Niekerk

Anaso Jobodwana, Clarence Munyai, Luxolo Adams, Trentavis Friday, Isaac Makwala, Retshidisitswe Mlenga, Hendrick Maartens and Justin Walker during day 1 of the Athletix Grand Prix at Ruimsig Athletics Stadium on February 28, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Anaso Jobodwana, Clarence Munyai, Luxolo Adams, Trentavis Friday, Isaac Makwala, Retshidisitswe Mlenga, Hendrick Maartens and Justin Walker during day 1 of the Athletix Grand Prix at Ruimsig Athletics Stadium on February 28, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Botswana star Isaac Makwala would like to become the fourth man in the world to break 31 seconds when he races the 300m in Pretoria on Thursday.

Makwala‚ one of only five athletes on the planet to have run a sub-20-second 200m and sub-44 400m‚ will be one of the foreign stars on show at the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix meet at the Tuks track.

World 100m champion Justin Gatlin of the US is the main attraction in the 150m where he takes on Anaso Jobodwana‚ leaving Akani Simbine the out-and-out favourite for the 100m.

Two of the three sub-20/sub-43 men have been quicker than 31 seconds in the 300m — Wayde van Niekerk and American Michael Johnson. The third is Usain Bolt.

Van Niekerk owns the 30.81sec world best‚ which he took from Johnson (30.85) last year. Bolt’s best was 30.97.

Makwala — the only man in the world to have done a sub-20/sub-44 on the same day‚ about 75 minutes apart — was a little slower when he ran the double at the opening Athletix meet in Ruimsig last Thursday.

He won the 400m in 45.03 but 30 minutes later faded into fifth spot in 20.89.

“I did not go flat out in the 400m on Thursday because I still had the 200m a bit later in the evening‚” he said in a statement issued by organisers on Monday morning.

“But there is only the 300m for me this Thursday‚ so I feel very confident about getting close to that sub-31.”

Makwala‚ whose best over 300m is 31.44‚ will again face young Thapelo Phora‚ who was second behind him in the 400m in Ruimsig‚ and Pieter Conradie‚ who was third.

Veteran one-lapper Ofentse Mogawane is also in the line-up.

Also competing in the 100m are Henricho Bruintjies‚ the former holder of the 9.97 SA record‚ rising star Clarence Munyai‚ world under-18 champion Tshenolo Lemao and world under-18 200m champion Retshiditswe Mlenga.

Potentially the biggest threat to Simbine‚ owner of the 9.89 SA record‚ is Gatlin’s training partner Justin Walker‚ who boasts a 10.05 best.

Simbine has been beaten only twice over 100m on home soil since 2014.

Both defeats came in 2016‚ losing to Bruintjies at the SA championships in Stellenbosch and a few months later finishing third at the African championships in Durban behind Ivorian Ben Youssef Meite and Mosito Lehata of Lesotho.

This will be Simbine’s first race of the season.

In the men’s 400m hurdles‚ Kenya’s world champion from 2015‚ Nicholas Bett will be in action against the local trio of LJ van Zyl‚ Constant Pretorius and Le Roux Hamman.

Bett’s countryman Aron Koech‚ seventh at the 2016 Rio Olympics‚ and Qatari Abderraham Samba‚ seventh at the 2017 world championships‚ are also in action.

Abderraham‚ coached by South African Hennie Kotze‚ clocked his 48.31 best in Sasolburg last year.

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