Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
14 Aug 2020
11:59 am

Hurdles star Alkana adjusts to ‘new normal’ after returning to the track

Wesley Botton

Though he admits he needs to shake off some rust and sharpen up, African 110m hurdles champion Antonio Alkana is glad to be racing again.

Antonio Alkana in action for Western Province at the ASA Senior Championships in Germiston last year. Picture: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

While there would usually be dozens of SA athletes competing overseas at this time of year, Alkana was the first to step into a new world of top-flight athletics, which featured now ubiquitous face masks, sanitiser and social distancing rules.

“Racing on the circuit still feels normal because wearing masks and washing hands has become a normal thing for everyone,” Alkana said.

“I still have my usual chats with the guys on the circuit, but I just try to keep a distance, and I wear my mask.”

Compatriot Wayde van Niekerk (who was in camp with Alkana in Italy) had been blocked from competing at a meeting in Trieste two weeks ago after the 400m world record holder returned an apparent false positive Covid-19 test, but Alkana was cleared to participate.

And though other South African athletes were expected to open their international campaigns soon, including the likes of African long jump champion Ruswahl Samaai and national 100m record holder Akani Simbine, Alkana had been left to carry the SA flag with a few lone appearances.

Alkana (centre) with long jumper Ruswahl Samaai (left) and sprinter Wayde van Niekerk after arriving at a training camp in Gemona last month. Picture: In-Site Athlete Managament

Alkana finished fifth in the 110m hurdles race in 13.79 seconds at the Trieste meeting, and though he was well outside the continental record of 13.11 which he set in 2017, he displayed a faster turn of speed by taking fourth position in 13.58 at a European permit meeting in Finland earlier this week.

Taking another step forward, he was set to line up at the third leg of the shortened Diamond League series in Monaco on Friday night.

With the domestic campaign having been scratched in March, due to the ongoing pandemic, Alkana admitted he wasn’t in top physical shape, but he was hoping to make some progress during the European campaign.

“Training in Gemona has been going well, but it’s a weird season because prep wasn’t that great back home,” said the 30-year-old speedster.

“I’m not as fast and strong as I would like to be, but I’m just here to enjoy it, do every race to the best of my ability and try stay healthy throughout the season.”

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