UP athlete Akani Simbine has shaken the varsity athletic world across the country this year with an unbeatable streak. Perdeby recently had the opportunity to discuss his latest records, victories and hopes for the future with him.
It’s been a big year for you. How do you feel about your recent personal best (PB) of 20.27 seconds for the 200m?
It has been a big year. Well, it happened during the AGM Provincial Champs and came as quite a shock, especially because 200 metres feels really long for me. I’m on form, but I still feel like I’m unfit. In the semi-final I ran a PB of 20.35 seconds. Before that my fastest time was 20.37 at the Commonwealth race last year. So I went semi-final PB, and then in the final I went PB again.
How do you feel about your unbeaten streak in Varsity Athletics this year, taking the title in Potchefstroom and Stellenbosch in the 100m and 200m?
I am really happy about it! Keeping that unbeaten streak going really helps with my confidence. I appreciate that we can run Varsity Athletics, because there aren’t a lot of meetings at that level here in South Africa that we are exposed to, so it’s [a] great thing that we have that kind of exposure.
Did anything stand out for you during your time in the Western Cape?
Well, actually this past weekend (24-26 April). I equalled my season’s best with a 10.09 second record in the USSA 100m race. It is the fastest sea-level time run by a South African. The 10.02 second race up here [in Pretoria] was at this altitude, so at sea-level, even though I run slightly slower, it equals my actual best time.
You have qualified for the IAAF World Championship later this year in Beijing. How do you feel about this?
It is most definitely exciting. It is going to be my second time at World Champs, but this time I feel like I actually have the potential to reach a final if everything goes right. I’m just hoping to keep healthy and [I] am going to train very hard. I feel like out of the last five years this is where I am at my peak and have a real chance of getting somewhere.
You are going to run against some big names a few times this year. When you are at the starting line and you look around and see someone like Usain Bolt standing near you, what thoughts run through your mind? How do you cope with the pressure?
Well, I don’t really feel the pressure because I actually enjoy these races. [Usain] Bolt has his own aura and brings so much excitement to the atmosphere from the crowd. I get to be a part of that excitement and benefit from what he brings to the track. I look to my side and I try think, “Pshh, there’s Bolt.” It’s awesome running against him. I am at the level where I need to focus on what I need to do, just like he needs to focus on what he needs to do.
What are your goals for a race at that level?
My hope is to run a perfect race and to finish it well. I tell myself as I go down to start, “Go through your phases right, run a perfect race. Do your best because your best will always be enough.”
Do you have any specific hope for the World Championship this year?
Yes, this year I want to try get into the final for both the 100m and 200m.
What is your training routine right now?
Because we are in season, I am concentrating on speed-work, my first 40m drive phase, and my acceleration and technique. I gym at the HPC in the morning and after classes train at a track in Kempton Park.
How do you stay humble at a time in your life where your success and popularity are growing at a fast pace?
I just tell myself, “You are not there yet.” I don’t want to ever allow myself to reach that place of thinking that I’m “there”. I always remind myself to do more and stay humble. If I let anything get to my head I will stop focusing on what I need to get done to achieve success, and I don’t want that kind of distraction.
From what you post on social media networks, your faith seems to play a big part in what you do. Is this an area that you turn to for strength?
Yes, most definitely. I even have these tattoos, “hope and faith”, to remind me what I stand firm on. I have been blessed with a talent, and look to glorify God with that talent.