SA 4x100m relay team can win a medal in Tokyo - Jobodwana

South Africa's record-breaking men's 4x100m relay team has the potential to earn a medal at next year's Tokyo Olympic Games, says sprinter Anaso Jobodwana.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) appointed former 400m runner Paul Gorries to coach Team SA relay teams late last year and the result was a better co-ordinated 4x100m men's relay team, which broke the African record in Doha last year, with a time of 37.65 seconds, beating Nigeria's 22-year-old record of 37.94 seconds.

However, that performance in last year's World Athletics Championships heats didn't translate to the final where South Africa finished fifth behind the USA, Great Britain, Japan and Brazil.

"We have a whole other year now where the preparation can continue in the right way and we have a very good chance of being on the podium in Tokyo," said Jobodwana.

"It was especially exciting to watch the whole thing unfold because for the first time Athletics South Africa had a proper training camp and Paul was on top of everything.

"Paul's mind was very methodical in terms of how the team approached races and he had some help as well. When we beat the African record, it was great to see all that work come to fruition.

"The scary thing was that, that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how far the SA team can go in the relay event. Clarence [Munyai], who ran the third leg, only came in at World Championships. We were in Italy before we flew to Doha and Clarence only came in and did his exchanges when we got to Doha. That shows there's a lot room for improvement.

"All these great teams - Great Britain, the US and Japan - go to training camps and at each camp they have four or five physiotherapists, technical analysts and all the support staff that they need to make sure they run well. We didn't have that stuff that's necessary for us to run fast but we were close to what they were running."

With SA's top 100m sprinter Akani Simbine as the anchor, the country, at least on paper, has the makings of a top relay team. Simbine, Munyai, Simon Magakwe and Thando Dlodlo, who put in the African record-breaking effort in Doha, could be joined by 200m specialist Jobodwana, Henrico Bruintjies, Thando Roto and Gift Leotlela.

While the team failed to scramble a single medal in Doha last year, track still accounts for a massive chunk of South Africa's Olympic medal hopes after garnering four of the country's 10 medals in Rio 2016.

"Yes my individual events count but being part of a team that makes the podium for a 4x100m race, for a South African team, that would be something super awesome. And I think that it's gonna happen," said Jobodwana.

"I'm in the squad and I want to compete in it but that's not really up to me. It's up to the coach and who he thinks is the right fit for the actual team.

"I always approach things in a way that I do what's best for myself and that makes my entry into the 4x100m relay team more automatic than it would be if I just said I'm gonna be on the relay team.

"That was the strategy coming into the season. Obviously, I’d first have to get my individual events in a good space and get into the top three in the 100m and the 200m ... the rest will take care of itself.

"Last year at World Championships I wasn't fit enough to be on the team but it was exciting to watch them break the African record."
Jobodwana said his coach Stuart McMillan had worked with him to increase his stride-length, which in turn helped him accelerate quicker off the blocks and faster through the 100m distance.

"Since I'm not a 100m guy, that was very exciting for me. I was now starting to get into the blocks and to sharpen up," he said.

Akani Simbine, Anaso Jobodwana, Henricho Bruintjie

Akani Simbine, Anaso Jobodwana, Henricho Bruintjies and Emile Erasmus (Getty Images)

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