BackPage – World Athletics Relays Team SA Overview!

 

What an amazing weekend of International athletics! We had been starved of international athletics since 2020 but this weekend 
(1-2 May) brought back the hope and a beginning of restrictions being lifted and athletics opening for the whole world again.

South Africa took a petit team to the World Athletics Relays with only 3 teams gearing up to battle and battle is exactly what they 
did. The teams in total consisted of a 4 x 100m Men’s team which had most of SA’s hopes hanging on their shoulders, 4 x 400m Men’s 
team which was a team to look out for as they would comfortably make the final and the Mixed 4 x 400m Relay team which was 
new to the relay world. The 4 x 100m and the 4 x 400m showed class and composure to qualify for the finals and the Mixed 4 x 400m 
team fell short of the final but they gave their utmost best bringing home a national record which symbolises a beginning of an event 
which SA will surely focus on in the future.


SA's Mixed 4 x 400m Relay

The quartet of Ukhona Khuzwayo, Deleen Mpiti, Taylon Bieldt and Ranti Dikgale had the task of running in the unfamiliar mixed 
4 x 400m relay for Team SA. The team put on a solid display working together till the line and brought home a National Record time 
of 3:19.18! Besides the National Record, what was exciting to see in this race was the fact that 3 up-and-coming athletes 
(Deleen Mpiti, 21 years, Taylon Bieldt 23 years and Ukona Khuzwayo, 24 years) would have a chance to debut at a senior
 International level for South Africa which can only benefit us in the future.

The finals on day 2 were tense and with temperatures in Poland being at single digits on a cool evening, things did not seem to 
favour the South Africans who had been running in hot conditions all summer long back home in South Africa. This however did not 
distract them from the task at hand with both the teams looking relaxed yet super focussed when they walked out of the tunnel to 
the track.


SA's 4 x 100m Men’s Relay

The quartet consisting of team captain and ancor, Akani Simbine, Gift Leotlela, Clarence Munyai and Thando Dlodlo were first of the 
2 SA teams to step on the track. Dlodlo had the responsibility of leading the team out of the blocks and he had a solid start to the 
run with a small (almost unrecognisable) glitch before handing over to the inform Gift Leotlela. Leotlela did not disappoint powering 
his way in the back straight with his split for the seconds leg captured at an insane 9.16 seconds. Leotlela would hand over to SA’s 
fastest bend runner, Clarence Munyai who clawed his way back on the Brazilian team which was flying at this point. Munyai ran a 
perfect leg and the hand over between him and Akani Simbine was flawless giving the team anchor the best possible opportunity to 
run home at full speed. Simbine did exactly that. Upon receiving the baton, he turned on the turbos and although it seemed the 
Brazilians would Samba to the finish line, AK47 was on target as he shot straight through the line taking down the Brazilians. 
Simbine was timed at an insane 9.08 seconds over his final leg!! The celebrations upon finally seeing the results on the face of 
Simbine, Munyai, Leotlela and Dlodlo were priceless. They had done it!


SA's 4 x 400m Men’s Relay

The quartet consisting of team anchor, Oscar Mavundla, Zakithi Nene, Ranti Dikgale and Lythe Pillay stepped on the track in what 
was the final relay event of the 2-day competition. Once again, the cold weather was always going to be a challenge with athletes 
visibly looking troubled by it but that is not how it went as soon as the gun went off. Lythe Pillay once again as in the semi-finals had 
the responsibility of leading out the team and as in the semi’s the youngster put on a mature and courageous performance to 
hand-over the baton in the lead to the SA Champion, Zakithi Nene. Nene was flawless on his leg as well showing no signs of 
relinquishing the lead he was given by Pillay as he handed over to Ranti Dikgale. Dikgale who had run the fastest split in the 
semi-finals did well to run a steady first half of the 200m and fought for the line but managed to hand the baton over safely to 
Oscar Mavundla in 4th place. Mavundla came out like a rocket upon receiving the baton and he ran a phenomenal and maybe over 
ambitious first 300m and it showed in the last 100m although fighting bravely he could not maintain he position and slid into 5th 
place. This was a brave run from the South Africans, and one can’t help but feel inspired by all the teams.


Well done to all the athletes, coach Paul Gorries who has been a mastermind behind the success of all the relays over the past 
years, Team Manager, Danie Cornelius and physio, Robyn John for making it possible for these athletes to shine.


Photo credit: ALEKSANDRA SZMIGIEL / REUTERS


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Written by Themba Madima