South Africa secured its first ever GOLD medal at the World Athletics Relay Championships, with the national 4x100m team delivering a memorable performance in the final in Silesia, Poland on Sunday night.
Taking over in 2nd place on the final leg, SA record holder Akani Simbine managed to chase down the Brazilian team in the home straight.
With Simbine dipping on the line in 38.71s, the SA quartet that also included Thando Dlodlo, Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai, secured victory by 0.01 against Brazil as Ghana crossed the line in 3rd. However, both Brazil and Ghana were later disqualified, giving Italy the Silver medal in 39.21s.
In the men’s 4x400m final, junior prodigy Lythe Pillay, Zakithi Nene, Oscar Mavundla and Ranti Dikgale took 5th position. Having progressed as the third quickest team in the heats the day before, they completed the four-lap race in 3:05.76 and have automatically qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan scheduled for 23 July 2021.
“Congratulations to coach Paul Gorries, athletes, manager Danie Cornelius and all medical staff that have been supporting them,” said Aleck Skhosana. “I am over the moon as the President of Athletics South Africa because some people had not seen this project as viable and had strongly opposed it.
“I knew where I was going with this and today I’m so proud that the boys have made this country proud. Two teams have qualified for the Olympic Games and we are also World Champions in the 4x100m. The last time our Rainbow Nation won the 4x400m event was in 2001 at the World Championships. I also must dedicate this GOLD medal and the 4x400m Olympic qualifier to the University of Pretoria for their remarkable contribution and for believing in my vision. Deeds and not lip service is what our focus has been all about.
“Tonight’s achievements are a clear indication that we know what we are doing and this is only the beginning. The best is yet to come. We are No.1 in the world out of 115 member countries and we have fulfilled what others before us have failed to do.”
Meanwhile, East African nation Kenya claimed two medals at the just-concluded World Relays in Poland, taking Silver behind winners Germany in the men’s 4x200m in 1:24.26, and another Silver in the Mixed 2x2x400m on Day 1 of the Championship.
Botswana’s quartet comprising Isaac Makwala, Boitumelo Masilo, Ditiro Nzamani and Leungo Scotch also made the podium in the men’s 4x400m which was the last race of the competition, taking Bronze in a time of 3:04.77 as the Netherlands stormed to GOLD in 3:03.45 while Japan clocked 3:04.45 to win the Silver medal.