Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
12 Apr 2014
1:00 pm

Shadow of Nash still hangs over sprinters

Wesley Botton

When Paul Nash went to bed on April 1, 1968 he would have been somewhat disappointed if he knew he would narrowly fail in his bid the next day to become the first South African to break 10 seconds in the 100m sprint.

Wesley Botton.

Nash, however, is no doubt far more surprised these days that the barrier still stands firm, some 46 years later.

At the age of 21, Nash clocked 10.0 seconds in front of a capacity crowd in Krugersdorp in April 1968, equalling the hand-timed world record jointly held by German Armin Harry, Horacio Estevez of Venezuela and American Jim Hines.

Hines went on to clock 9.95 six months later to win Olympic gold in Mexico City, and was recognised as the first official athlete to dip under 10 seconds when the IAAF introduced electronic timing in 1977.

While Nash’s time would probably have been slower than records indicate (closer to 10.15), with hand-timing believed to be less accurate due to the reliance on human reaction, he is still among South Africa’s all-time best performers in the event.

As of yesterday, 90 men had broken the 10-second barrier, including 14 athletes from four African countries.

And while South Africa remains trapped behind a door that has refused to budge for nearly three decades, there are a trio of athletes who are set to make an onslaught on the milestone.

Until 2011, only five South Africans had dipped under 10.15, but Simon Magakwe, Anaso Jobodwana and Akani Simbine have all done so in the past two years.

Magakwe equalled Johan Rossouw’s long-standing SA record of 10.06 in April 2012 and Jobodwana twice stopped the clocks at 10.10 last season.

Simbine, the national junior record holder, produced a stunning 10.13 effort at the Gauteng North provincial championships last month, and Magakwe has also shown impressive early season form with a 10.21 performance in Perth in February.

The ever-consistent Jobodwana is expected to have a go at the barrier during the international campaign, but as he watches from a distance from his base in the United States Magakwe and Simbine will attempt to break new ground in the closing stages of the domestic season.

History could be made in the capital city today when Magakwe and Simbine meet for the first time this year in the men’s 100m final, and if they fail in their attempt, they will have another chance at the SA Open Championships in Potchefstroom next month.

It might be thier last opportunity, however, before Jobodwana attacks the barrier on the American and European circuits.

Whoever achieves the feat first, will break one of the longest standing barriers in South African sport. The ghost of Nash’s past has haunted every one of the country’s top sprinters for nearly 50 years.

This could be the year that Nash’s shadow is allowed to rest at last.