South African sprinter Akani Simbine recently set a new record and now he is dreaming of Olympic glory. The 22-year-old, who broke the South African 100m record at a meeting held in Budapest, Hungary on Monday 18 July, beat Jamaican and Olympic favourite Asafa Powell. Simbine ran it in 9.89 seconds.
Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, Simbine speaks to Brand South Africa and shares ten things about himself.
Watch Simbine set a South African record:
Being a South African ambassador
Melissa Javan: Akani, this will be your first Olympics. Tell us how you feel about being an ambassador for your country.
Akani Simbine: To be one of a few [people] to have all of South Africa’s hopes of medals on my shoulders. Not many people get this opportunity. It is a blessing, a great honour to be able to be an ambassador for South Africa.
MJ: What does it mean to you to be an ambassador of South Africa?
AS: You have to represent the country and all of the population well, [that means] to show the world that our country has greatness in it.
Fellow South Africans supporting the Olympic team
MJ: You said in March this year that you hope to show South Africans “how a sub 10 second race is run”. How important is support from fans?
AS: It’s very important to have the backing of fellow South Africans. They play a part in your drive to become better and faster.
MJ: What else do you hope to show South Africans, especially your family, friends and the old community you grew up in?
AS: Your dreams are possible to achieve. All you have to do is put in the work and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from achieving it.
MJ: Tell us about yourself.
AS: I grew up in East Rand (Kempton Park). I really enjoy watching soccer. The teams I support are Kaiser Chiefs and Chelsea FC.
MJ: You played soccer before you were an athlete. Who or what gave you inspiration to become a professional runner?
AS: My coach Werner Prinsloo. I played soccer for school [Edenglen High School in Edenvale] and a club when I was told to try out running. It just worked out well for me. I started dreaming about being part of the South African team when I was 18-years-old.
MJ: What position in soccer did you play?
AS: Right wing.
Rubbing shoulders with the big dogs
MJ: In a recent interview you said you were “not phased” by running alongside athletes like Mike Rogers and Asafa Powell. What do you mean that?
AS: That even though they are great sprinters, it doesn’t mean my race plan has to change. I must just come into the race with the same mentality that I go into every race – that is to just do me and run my phases as perfectly as possible.
MJ: Do you think you can beat Usain Bolt?
AS: Bolt is an amazing athlete and the greatest of all time. I want to be there when I get more mature and experienced in the game.
MJ: What do you think of people calling you “the next Bolt”?
AS: It’s a great honor to be mentioned alongside a great like him. I’m making sure that I put in the work so that I can live up to that title.
MJ: What is it like to practice alongside team mates like Heinrich Bruintjies and Wayde van Niekerk?
AS: It’s really great and always inspirational. We all want the best for each other and we all push each other to overcome our limits.
MJ: Lastly, with regard to the Olympics, what is your message to South Africa?
AS: My message to South Africa is that I hope their hearts and prayers are with us during the Olympic Games. I hope that we as the athletes are going out there to do our best, leave a mark and let the world know that South Africa is a nation filled of greatness.
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