7. Akani Simbine
South Africa’s Akani Simbine has been one of Africa’s shinning lights in nearly a decade, having made Top 5 at two consecutive Olympic Games (Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2021) and three consecutive World Championships (London 2017, Doha 2019 and Oregon 2022). And so just like in previous years, the former African record holder still held the fort for the continent in 2022.
Simbine commenced his season in April at the Central Gauteng Championships where he won the 100m final in 10.18s. A few days later at the ASA Athletics Grand Prix, he squared off with Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala in their first head-to-head clash. It was going to be a mouth-watering encounter, considering that the Kenyan was Simbine’s successor as far as the African Record was concerned, breaking his record of 9.84s barely two months after Simbine bettered Olusoji Fasuba’s long standing record of 9.85s in July last year.
In this first face-off between the continent’s fastest men, Simbine lost to Omanyala after clocking 10.11s as the latter coasted to victory in 9.98s. Later that month, Sibmine claimed his fifth National 100m crown. A month later, he sped to a Season’s Best (SB) of 10.06s to place 4th at the Golden Spike Meet in Ostrava. Coming to Mauritius as the defending champion, the defending champion knew the stakes were raised as he had to face Omanyala once more.
He easily won his heat and semi final races in 10.14s and 10.09s respectively. The nail-biting final turned out to be a photo finish between the pair as they both clocked 9.93s. However Omanyala was given the nod ahead of Simbine who settled for Silver.
The World Championships in Oregon was Simbine’s fifth consecutive outing at the event. He narrowly escaped exiting the competition in the heats after placing 4th in 10.07s. He made up for that blunder by coasting to victory in the semis with a time of 9.97s to make his third consecutive final and the only African in the line-up. He subsequently finished 5th in a time of 10.01s.
Moving on to the Commonwealth Games, his third time at the Games, Simbine dominated his heat and semi final races. However, he lost his title to Omanyala, placing 2nd with a time of 10.13s. The former African Champion made three appearances at the Diamond League this season where he recorded a win in Stockholm while finishing 3rd and 4th respectively in Oslo and Zurich.
Last week, the 2018 Commonwealth Games Champion was named Male Athlete of the Year at the Central Gauteng Athletics Awards, with Carina Horn claiming the women’s award. Of course as a highly competitive athlete, the 29-year-old would have desired a much better outcome to his season. Nevertheless he will be looking forward to making a mark when the 2023 season takes off.