South African star sprinter Akani Simbine aims to rectify Rio mistakes at Tokyo Olympics

Akani Simbine will be making his second Olympic appearance in Tokyo
Akani Simbine will be making his second Olympic appearance in Tokyo

Just 0.03 seconds differentiated Akani Simbine and the men's 100m bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics before he went on to finish fifth. Five years later, the South African star sprinter is eager to make amends at the Tokyo Olympics, which kicks off on July 23.

In Tokyo, it will be a whole different scenario compared to the previous editions. From empty stands to stringent COVID protocols, it will be a Games like no other. Similarly, it will be a different Akani Simbine blazing through the track in Tokyo from what he was five years ago.

The middle years have taught Simbine a lot. He has learnt how to stay calm and not take too much pressure at big events like the Olympics. The South African believes these small changes will take him to the Tokyo podium.

“Keep my head on my shoulders and not to stress too much or put myself in a corner, thinking I’m not free. When I’m running, I should be running free and relaxed and that’s the one thing I didn’t do in Rio,” Akani Simbine told the World Athletics website.

Usain Bolt's absence opens up chances for Akani Simbine

For the first time in 17 years, the Olympics track will not have legendary Jamaican Usain Bolt in the starting line-up. Bolt's absence has opened up chances for a new star to be crowned the champion in Tokyo. Akani Simbine is one of the sprinters looking to make the most of this opportunity, with his countrymen pinning hopes on him as well.

“I don’t take it as pressure, something that weighs me down. I take it more as motivation and belief. A lot of people believe in me and what I can do for the country, what I can do on the track,” commented Akani Simbine on Bolt's absence.

With a cut-throat competition, Akani Simbine believes in speaking for himself and running his heart out. He has already set the tone with timings of 9.99s (Pretoria) in late March and 9.82s (South African Championships) in April. Simbine will hope to carry the momentum into Tokyo and make his country proud.

“People are going to have to run their PBs, that’s for sure. I’ll just speak for myself and say I’ll be ready. I’ll be at my best, making sure I run the best I can when it counts,” concluded Akani Simbine.

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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