American sprint legend and reigning 100 metres world champion, Justin Gatlin, is in the country for the second meeting of the inaugural Athletix Grand Prix series.
The 2004 Olympic Games champion will compete in the 150 metres sprint at the Tuks Athletics Stadium in Pretoria on Thursday evening.
Gatlin is in the country for the first time ever. The 36-year-old has been one of the world’s top sprinters since the turn of the century and he acknowledges the strides South Africa is making in athletics.
“I’m a competitor and I know these guys are competitors as well. I watched them go from college to professional athletes and coming on their own as professionals and have a name in the world stage. Once the gun goes off tomorrow, we’ll see; maybe we will be coming out straight away and I’ll ask him if I need to be jet-lagged to get on the other side. We’ll see.”
The sprinters cannot wait to take to the track. It promises to be a mouth-watering event, especially the 100 and 150 metres sprints.
The creme de la creme of SA sprinters, including Africa’s fastest man, Akani Simbine and the 2015 world championships bronze medallist,Aanaso Jobodwana, as well as the President of Athletics South Africa, Aleck Skhosana, have assembled.
Jobodwana will be up against the American sprint legend and world champion, Gatlin, in the 150 metres event.
“I’m just trying to win and execute my race as best as I can. I know how Gatlin gets out. So, I’ll try to be in contact with him so I can at least have a chance to pull away on the stretch,” says Jobodwana.
Simbine says, “Having Gatlin here in South Africa is actually amazing for us and South Africa as well because we get to see him run here and we get to see him running against Anaso and a couple of other South Africans. So, it’s going to be pretty interesting and I’m pretty excited.”
The second leg of the Athletix Grand Prix series at the Tuks Athletics stadium starts at Six PM.
By Mduduzi Ndlovu