Commonwealth Games 100m defending champion Akani Simbine says he’s accepted that he’s under-appreciated in his homeland despite being a consistent performer.
South African sports fans are probably the hardest to please in the world, as they are quick to embrace and disregard.
One of the main reasons criticism is levelled against Simbine is his inability to get a podium finish in the Olympics and the World Championships. This is because he had shown so much potential over the years as an elite athlete but usually falls short on the big stages.
Now 28, and understanding the dynamics of criticism in sports, Simbine thinks he is underrated in the country because of how he has performed in major championships.
“It’s always an honour to represent SA at the Olympics, World Champs or Commonwealth Games, but even if I were to break the world record I don’t think anything would change in terms of recognition,” said Simbine, who will race at 8.10pm Wednesday.
“Every year I perform well in the Diamond Leagues, the World Champs, the Olympics and I’m here in Birmingham as the Commonwealth Games 100m champion. But athletics doesn’t feature high up on SA’s sporting radar.
“I always make the 100m final and I’ve finished in the top five of those finals since 2016. But, I feel I don’t get the appreciation and have come to terms with it. Running fast is a gift that’s been given to me.”
Simbine is looking to successfully defend his 100m title at Birmingham, despite the presence of Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala, the fastest man in Africa at the moment.
Simbine ran 10.10 seconds to win his heat and qualify for today’s semifinal.
“I know I can win. If I can get the first 60m perfect then it sets me up for the last 40m. That’s my strongest part of the race. With a perfect first 60 then I know the last 40 will be strong,” he said.