ERIN SLINGERLAND

While all eyes are focused on “the road to Rio”, three TuksSport High School students, Tlotliso “Gift” Leotlela, Clarence Munyai and Malesela Senona, are paving a road after Rio for the second generation of South African sprinters.

Leotlela (18) is well-known for running the second-fastest 100 m time ever recorded in his age category. He ran in a time of 10.20 s at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa last year. Leotlela, a one-time national champion, is currently focusing on his dream to win a medal at the IAAF under-20 World Championships in Poland this year. He qualified for the championships in April this year by winning the national junior 100 m title with a time of 10.21 s, two seconds faster than the qualifying time. He also ran a personal best in the 200 m in 20.54 s in March this year, showing a two-second improvement on his performance at the Commonwealth Youth Games last year. Leotlela missed the Olympic 100 m qualifying time by only 0.08 s despite his win at the Youth Commonwealth games last year. He recently competed at a league meeting at Pilditch Stadium, winning with a 100 m time of 10.46 s, but this has left room for improvement to gain the consistent time of 10.10 s as desired by his coach, Hennie Kriel.

Munyai (18) is a two-time national champion who managed to run a 200 m Olympic qualifying time of 20.39 seconds in March. Sports Daily confirmed the possibility that Munyai could be in the 4 x 100 m relay squad for Rio, which is all dependant on the results of the rest of the South African sprinters who hope to enter the team. Munyai ran the 4 x 100 m in 40.02 s on 16 April, and despite his qualifying time he said that he is also focusing on winning a medal at the IAAF under-20 World Championships in Poland. He has yet to decide whether he prefers the 100 m or 200 m sprint and is currently a competitor to both Leotlela and Malesela. Munyai’s personal best times this year for the 200 m (20.36 seconds) took place in Germiston on 2 April, and for the 100 m (10.28ls) in Sasolburg on 8 April 2016.

Senona (17) is a one-time national champion. He is known as the “Gauteng-north prodigy” by Athletics South Africa. He ran the 100 m in 10.34 seconds and the 200 m in 20.74 seconds in Germiston in April this year. He also ran the 4 x 100 m in 40.02 seconds last month, the same time as Munyai and Leotlela.

All three athletes have raised hope for the upcoming sprinting future of South Africa and are hopeful to follow in the footsteps of 2016 Olympic competitors Akani Simbine, Henricho Bruintjies and Wayde van Niekerk.

Perdeby interviewed Leotlela and Munyai to find out their thoughts about the 2016 Rio Olympics and what they hope to bring to the sprinting future of South Africa.

Gift Leotlela:
What are your expectations for the under-20 World Championships in Poland?
I don’t want to aim too high like last year and be disappointed. Last year I went to Columbia for Worlds, so this year I will hopefully win a medal. That is what I’m working for. I just want to gain experience that will help me for other international [competitions] as well.

What does it mean to you to be representing your country in an international event at such a young age?
It doesn’t matter how much I get to represent SA, every time I have the opportunity it really means a lot to me to be able to make my country proud.

 

Clarence Munyai:
You have recently run an Olympic qualifying time, making a Rio a possibility for you. What are your chances of you making the South African team in light of the other sprinters who could be chosen?
There is quite a good chance, because I know Wayde van Niekerk won’t run the 200 m because he is focusing on 400 m, which opens a door for another athlete.

Since the Olympics have become a possibility has your focus shifted?
My focus is still on World Juniors [where] I am actually hoping to be number one.

What do you hope to bring to South Africa as the second sprinting generation?
I really hope [I can] motivate young athletes so they can also achieve their goals and bring track back, because athletics isn’t [really] being recognised so we’re trying to bring it back.

 

Image provided.

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