Simbine and the speed merchants secure SA’s second Olympic relay spot

06 May 2024 - 09:30
By David Isaacson
Akani Simbine crosses the line to win the 4x100m qualification heat in Bahamas on Sunday night.
Image: REUTERS/Dante Carrer Akani Simbine crosses the line to win the 4x100m qualification heat in Bahamas on Sunday night.

Akani Simbine anchored South Africa’s 4x100m posse of speed merchants to the Paris Olympics as they won their qualification heat at World Relays in Bahamas on Sunday night (Monday morning SA time).

They were the nation’s second team to book a Games spot after the men’s 4x400m team, who earned their berth on Saturday and were scheduled to race for World Relays silverware later on Sunday.

The 4x100m line-up sported one change from the outfit that missed out on the previous day, bringing in Bradley Nkoana for out-of-form Clarence Munyai on the third leg, and it paid off handsomely as they whipped the baton around the track in 38.08sec, the fourth fastest time ever by a South African 4x100m team.

It was also the fastest time of the three qualifying heats and would have been good enough for bronze behind the US and Canada in the final later in the day. 

Schoolboy Bayanda Walaza had another reasonable start and Benjamin Richardson ignited on the second leg, clocking 9.00 down the back straight to take South Africa from fifth position to first.

Nkoana stayed in front as he negotiated the top bend in 9.49 and Simbine finished it off in style with a lightning 8.92, the second-quickest fourth leg of the meet, behind US double world champion Noah Lyles, who went 8.88 in the final later in the evening.

The country’s mixed 4x400m team were not as fortunate, ending third in their final qualification heat behind Bahamas and Jamaica.

The decision to bring Lythe Pillay into the mix didn’t pay off as they finished almost one-and-a-half seconds behind second-placed Jamaica.

Pillay, receiving the baton in a distant fourth place, had too much to do and ended slightly slower than the man he replaced, Antonie Nortje.

He was also more than a second slower than his lap in the men’s 4x400m heats on Saturday.

South Africa were 0.01sec slower than Saturday and 0.99sec slower than the outfit that ran their year’s best time at the University of Johannesburg grand prix meet in March.