Semenya and Van Niekerk show early season form on the track

The start to the 2020 athletics season has ushered with it some good form for South Africa’s elite athletes, as they begin their early build-up towards the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, to be staged later this year.

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South Africa’s golden girl, Caster Semenya and local sprint sensation Akani Simbine, set new national bests over unofficial distances at the Backtrack Newton Classic Shootout meeting held at the University of Johannesburg on Monday. Semenya won the women’s 300m race in 36.78 seconds, slicing 0.24 off the South African set nearly 20 years ago.

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The back in action Wayde van Niekerk stormed to victory in the 100m sprint event held at a meeting in the Free State province (Image: IAAF).

The Gauteng Sport Awards 2019 Sport Personality of the Year is awaiting a court decision which will determine whether she will be able to defend her Olympic 800m title in Tokyo. Also competing at UJ, African 100m champion Akani Simbine took the men’s 150m race in a blistering 15.08 seconds. This meant that Simbine equalled the SA best set by Anaso Jobodwana in March 2018, holding off a challenge from national 200m record holder Clarence Munyai, who finished second in 15.13.

Elsewhere, South Africa’s Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk made his return from a serious knee injury, to win the men’s 100m race at an in-house Kovsies meeting in Bloemfontein on Monday night. The world record holder covered the short dash in 10.20 seconds on a grass track. The President of Athletics South Africa said the events were a very important build-up if the country is to compete well at the world event.

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South African sprint record-holder Akani Simbine stormed to victory in the 150m at a meeting held at the University of Johannesburg (Image: Getty Images).

“This is a particularly a very important year as it takes us to the Olympics and that ups the stakes significantly,” said Skhosana. “When senior athletes get off to a good start, it inspires many aspiring and up-coming stars because they look up to them. With our eyes fixed on Tokyo in July, ASA urges all athletes not to lose focus on this bigger picture and wish them all a good build-up and a great season ahead.”