Sprint stars Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruinjies represent a new era for South African athletes


When South Africans Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruinjies finished one to two in the men's 100m Monday evening, everything about Jamaican Johan Blake's shock was third.

With the men's 200m to be driven on Thursday evening, the real question is whether the performance of Simbine and Bruinjes signals the emergence of a new superpower of world athletics – the black South African sprinter.

Simbine was born in September 1992, seven months after the historic white single referendum, recognized as the end of apartheid. Bruinjie's birth date was July 1993, ten months before Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president in South Africa.

The meaning is obvious. Simbine and Bruinjies represent the first generation of black South African athletes who have lived all their lives apart from apartheid.

They have trained and competed from the beginning of their career with full support of state-funded roads designed to give black athletes all chances of success at the highest level.

Some will say more than any chance. After decades of disadvantage, many of South Africa's black athletes are given an assignment to their white counterparts.

By 2020, all South African sports federations must hold at least 50 percent black representation or risk losing government funding.

It is a quota system that some international commentators believe could have serious effects on South African cricket and rugby standards, with less talented or inexperienced black players who prefer to meet color requirements.

Athletics is a different issue. Like Simbine, Bruinjies and other South African athletes and athletes have shown these games, in their sports the stopwatch is the ultimate arbitration.

Simbines winning time Monday night at 10.03 sec was the second fastest men's 100m race this year. Going into the evening's 200m final was the fastest time of the year 19.69 sec driven by colleague South African Clarence Munyai last month.

For those who wonder who would step into the shoes from the big Usain Bolt, the South Africans appeared on these games has been a bit of a shock.

Prior to Simbine-Bruin's quinella Monday evening, many thought it would be Bol's long-term perspective Blake or Canadian Andre De Grasse, an exhibition image for the Gold Coast due to fitness problems.

Few thought that a challenge would come from South Africa, but the success of their team at this meeting will be a big incentive for the many young black athletes who are currently making great progress at home.

At the same time as the first three days of the Commonwealth Games, the South African junior athletics titles were held in Paarl, Western Cape.

Standout performer was 17-year-old Gontse Morake, who set a national record in 400m hurdles and also won triple jump.

President of Athletics South Africa, Aleck Skhosana praised the talent of the show in words that should be a warning to athletes around the world.

"South African athletics have a good future," he said. "We must show that we as a country can dominate at all levels."



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