28 August 2015
South African sprinter Anaso Jobodwana has taken on the best in the world and succeeded. A day after compatriot Wayde van Niekerk won gold in the 400m final at the IAAF World Championship in Beijing, China, Jobodwana won bronze in the 200m final, to share the podium with none other than world record holder Jamaican Usain Bolt.
It was the third time Jobodwana raced against Bolt, including the London Olympics in 2012, but this time he finished in the top three. Jobodwana also broke the South African record for the event, finishing in 19.87 seconds, improving on Van Niekerk’s record time set less than a month ago.
It’s been 65 years since a South African athlete has won an international championship sprint medal, and in the last two days, thanks to Van Niekerk and Jobodwana, the country now has two.
Bolt took the race in 19.55 seconds with American Justin Gatlin grabbing silver in 19.74 seconds.
“My coach said if I executed the race the best way that I could, I would be on the podium. And when I was running that’s all I thought of: podium, podium, podium,” Jobodwana said after the race.
He knew he was in the best shape of his life when he arrived at the championship, saying he and his coach, Stuart McMillan, had worked hard to get to this point. But it was the presence of Bolt that gave him the edge to fulfil that promise. He told News24 “a race is always elevated when Bolt is in. It’s a great thing just feeling the power of the world record holder.”
Before the race, Bolt approached him with some encouragement: “He said, ‘Are you ready for a 19 seconds?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Oh, you don’t sound too confident.’ And I said, ‘No, no, no, I’m ready to run,'” Jobodwana said. After glancing over at each other in mutual admiration at the finish line, the three podium winners shared a victory lap together. While the focus was very much on Bolt, Jobodwana was equally lauded for his performance.
He will be in the running for a second competition medal in the 4x100m relay tomorrow.
Jobodwana’s win has been celebrated around the country, with friends, fans and ordinary South Africans taking to social media to congratulate him and sing his praises. It’s been a long road for the 23-year-old from Eastern Cape, who has worked hard on the track to reach this level of competition.
But he still has a lot to offer for South African athletics, as he looks ahead to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. No doubt, he will once again get a chance to face off against the legendary Jamaican super-sprinter – and just maybe beat him to the finish line.
“I feel I belong with the other guys. I’m going to build on that momentum,” he told Business Day yesterday. Coach McMillan agrees; he wants Jobodwana to gain some extra competition advantage over the coming year to contend in the Olympics 100m.