For the past two IAAF World Championships, South African sprinters justified their rise in the global rankings with at least a podium finish in the 200m event.
The only difference this year could perhaps be that Team SA heads into the half-lap race at the global track and field competition in Doha, Qatar, tonight as the underdog.
This is because the two South African contestants – Anaso Jobodwana and Clarence Munyai – are not among the 13 men who ran under the 20-second mark this season.
However, Munyai is not far behind the pack, thanks to the 20.04s season best that he clocked in Belgium in July. Jobodwana’s campaign best stands at 20.38s, which, by his own admission, sums up a “rough” season, but he is still eager to put up a good fight.
“Realistically, I’m not in that kind of shape to get a medal. But I always believe that getting to a final can make a huge difference,” the 27-year-old told City Press from Doha this week.
The 2015 bronze medallist added: “Personally, this season has been rough. I’m looking to make it into the final, and then fight once I get there.
“I’m just glad I’m back in this atmosphere so I can prepare for a medal onslaught for 2020 [at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan]. Clarence should be in the final.”
Munyai has shown potential each time he has ventured into international competitions. In Doha, the 21-year-old Tuks-based sprinter will be eager to put the disappointment of being disqualified during the 2017 London Championships behind him. He was flagged for not keeping to his lane.
Since he set the 19.69s new national record at last year’s SA Senior Championships, Munyai has battled injuries and had to adopt a cautious approach this season.
As a result, he’s had a rather quiet domestic campaign by his high standards.
Munyai declared that his goal was to win a medal in Doha – and he has Jobodwana’s backing.
The South African duo faces some serious competition on the pink track at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Pundits have their bets on Noah Lyles, the 22-year-old US sprinter who arrived in the Qatari capital as the fastest 200m runner this year.
Lyles clocked 19.50s at the IAAF Diamond League competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July, which places him fourth on the world all-time list behind Jamaicans Usain Bolt (19.19s) and Yohan Blake (19.26s), as well as the US’s former world record-holder Michael Johnson (19.32s).
There is the defending champion, Ramil Guliyev, the 29-year-old from Turkey, who beat Wayde van Niekerk to the gold medal at the London championships two years ago, to take into account.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who Jodobwana edged into third place at the London showpiece, seems to have regained his confidence and full fitness.
Other runners to watch are Lyle’s compatriots Kenneth Bednarek, who has run 19.82s this year, as well as Christian Coleman, who boasts a personal best mark of 19.85s.
There is also Nigeria’s emerging flying machine Divine Oduduru (22), who won the US collegiate 200m title in June in a championship record of 19.73s, the third-fastest time recorded this year.
The 200m semifinals tomorrow night will give a clearer picture of who is the boss in the battle for a title in an event that has long been dominated by Bolt, whose record of 19.19s remains intact 10 years later.
The final is pencilled in for Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, Jobodwana and Munyai will team up on Friday to contest the 4x100m relay.
“Everyone is in a positive mood. We had a relay team camp and the whole team gelled really well,” said Jobodwana of the week-long camp in Gemona, Italy.
“The heat [in Doha] for some reason is not bad.”
Completing the relay squad are Akani Simbine, Simon Magakwe, Thando Dlodlo and Antonio Alkana.