While most of the attention has been focussed on the men, with South African sprinting exploding in recent years, and Carina Horn has taken a large portion of the limelight among the women who compete in the sport’s flagship 100m event, Tebogo Mamatu believes she can join the rush after producing a breakthrough performance in Germiston last week.
Having progressed consistently since leaving the junior ranks in 2015, the diminutive 23-year-old rocket took a big step forward when she earned a confidence boosting victory at the SA Senior Championships.
Storming over the line in 11.45 seconds in the women’s 100m final, Mamatu finished well clear of teenager Rose Xeyi, who took second place in 11.61.
While the line-up was without national record holder Carina Horn, who withdrew from the heats which were held in cold and wet conditions, as well as talented rival Tamzin Thomas, who focussed on the 200m event, Mamatu said she was pleased to have achieved her goal by securing her maiden national senior title.
“The other athletes are out of my control, so I’m happy,” she said after the final.
“I’ve never won this title before, so I’m excited. This is great.”
Though she has battled with the typical sort of injury troubles associated with the physically taxing discipline of sprinting, Mamatu has established her place as the country’s No 2 sprinter over the 100m distance behind Horn.
Born in Soweto, she attended Monument High School before studying sports science at the University of Pretoria.
A specialist in the short dash, Mamatu first flaunted her immense potential when she won the 2013 African junior title in Reduit at the age of 18.
Three years later, after joining the senior age group, she did well to finish seventh against a quality field in the 100m final at the African Championships in Durban, and she went on to join Horn, Thomas and Alyssa Conley as they stormed to the gold medal in the women’s 4x100m relay final.
Returning to the continental showpiece last year, Mamatu missed out on a podium place in Asaba, but she managed to brush off poor conditions and a hamstring niggle to cross the line in sixth place.
Most importantly, perhaps, she has displayed real consistency, improving her 100m personal every year since 2016 and clocking a career record of 11.27 in Pretoria last season.
While she still has plenty of work to do to close the gap on Horn, who holds the SA record of 10.98, Mamatu is expected to make further progress over the next few years, and she could challenge for a medal at the African Games in Rabat later this season.
She will also be aiming for a spot in the national team at this year’s World Championships in Doha and next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
And with a breakthrough result under her belt, Mamatu feels she can go faster on the international circuit this season, in her ongoing attempt to joing the ranks of the global elite.
“I don’t want to jinx things, but I feel like I’m in really good shape this year,” she said.
“Everything is going well. Normally at this time of the season I’m feeling worried and pressured because of something.
“But this year my off-season went well, and everything has gone perfectly, so I believe this is going to be a good year.”