Athletics 8.3.2018 07:54 am

Who to watch: Fireworks expected at Athletix Grand Prix

Akani Simbine was unstoppable in 2017. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP.

Akani Simbine was unstoppable in 2017. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP.

Naturally much of the attention is focused on Justin Gatlin’s debut on South African soil but there are various locals ready to fire.

All eyes will rest on infamous American sprinter Justin Gatlin on Thursday night when the 100m world champion makes his maiden appearance on SA soil at the second leg of the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand series in Pretoria.

Other athletes are also expected to produce fireworks, however, at a meeting which promises to deliver some of the best domestic track and field performances in decades.

Aside from Gatlin, here are five other athletes who could set the Tuks Stadium alight.

Akani Simbine (South Africa, 100m)

Though he hasn’t competed yet in 2018, Simbine’s early-season performances in recent years indicate that his campaign could get off to another cracking start. And with the likes of former SA record holder Henricho Bruintjies and 20-year-old sensation Clarence Munyai expected to turn up the heat, it’ll hardly be a surprise if Simbine dips under 10 seconds. Consistent and calm under pressure, that’s just how he rolls

Isaac Makwala (Botswana, 300m)

The World Championships 200m finalist has been bold in his predictions this week, and he hopes to become only the fourth athlete to run under the 31-second barrier over the 300m distance. Holding a personal best of 31.44, Makwala is asking a lot of himself in only his second competitive outing of the season, but if he achieves the feat, he could steal the entire show

Anaso Jobodwana (South Africa, 150m)

Having made a significant impact on the South African circuit in the early stages of the season, after battling to find his best form for the last two years, Jobodwana has already clocked a wind-aided time of 10.07 over 100m and a nifty 20.13 in the 200m this year. While Gatlin has avoided the majority of the country’s top srinters, Jobodwana will be eager to cap his return by taking one of the biggest scalps in the sport

Nicholas Bett (Kenya, 400m hurdles)

A few years ago, Bett stunned the field to win the world title in Beijing, playing a key role as Kenya began to showcase its talent beyond distance-running events. The 28-year-old athlete, who is based in SA, clocked a season’s best of 48.95 last month. The favourite on paper, he will have to be on his toes against the likes of national record holder LJ van Zyl and SA champion LeRoux Hamman

Caster Semenya (South Africa, 1 000m)

Having flaunted her versatility in recent years over distances ranging from 400m to 1 500m, the world and Olympic 800m champion possesses all the necessary ingredients to hammer out a fast time in the rarely run 1 000m event. Despite the altitude of the capital city, she shouldn’t have too much trouble cracking the 35-year-old SA record of 2:37.20 held by Ilze Wicksell on her two-and-a-half lap debut.

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