Akani Simbine to lead SA contingent at World Relay Championships

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South African sprinter Akani Simbine (Gallo Images)
South African sprinter Akani Simbine (Gallo Images)
Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

South African sprinter Akani Simbine leads a national team of 10 athletes as captain at the World Athletics Relay Championships in Silesia, Poland.

The team departed South Africa for Poland on Tuesday ahead of the tournament, scheduled for 1-2 May.

South Africa will compete in the 4x100m men, 4x400m men and mixed relays.

So far, the touring squad has been dogged by travel challenges for the past two weeks after flights were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Certain countries refused passage to the athletes because South Africa is listed as a red zone country by other nations because of a rogue mutant strain.

The cancellations then affected a planned pre-departure camp that would have begun on Sunday.

"We have experienced a lot of difficulties in getting this team to travel after initially securing flight bookings and then saw them being cancelled because of countries that wouldn't allow us to transit because we are South Africans due to Covid 19 issues," explained Aleck Skhosana, the President of Athletics South Africa. 

"At these difficult times of the global pandemic, we shall also rely on the South African ambassador to Poland and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to keep an eye on our team. We have done everything we are supposed to, including the protocols outlined by the local organising committee and World Athletics."

Simbine, who won the 100m title at this month's SA Track and Field Championships, will captain the side in Poland.

The team will be coached by Paul Gorries with Danie Cornelius as manager and Robyn John as the physiotherapist.

Skhosana stated that the main aim would be for athletes to contest and qualify for July's Tokyo Olympics.

"The delegation is made of two male teams and a mixed team who are going to Silesia to contest for podium positions. Their secondary mission is to position themselves for automatic qualification for the Olympic Games," said Skhosana.

"On behalf of the ASA Board, we wish this team well to go to Poland to conquer and do the best for themselves, their country, for the federation and for Africa as they are equal to all the men and women who will be there from other countries.

"We thank each of the coaches who have prepared our athletes to be at this level. We are hopeful they are also ready to qualify for the Olympics."

After the championships, the team is expected to depart on Monday, 3 May, and arrive in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 4 May.

South African squad:

4x100m men

Akani Simbine, Gift Leotlela, Thando Dlodlo, Clarence Munyai, Emile Erasmus 

4x400m men

Lythe Pillay, Zakithi Nene, Oscar Mavundla, Ranti Dikgale, Simon Khuzwayo

4x400 mixed relay

Khuzwayo, Dikgale, Taylon Bieldt, Marli Viljoen, Deline Mpit

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