Thursday, 9 August 2012

Anaso Jobodwane takes on Usain Bolt tonight: but he nearly missed out on London

Right on track: Jobodwane and Bolt last night

ANASO JOBODWANE finds himself listed among the eight fastest men on the planet over 200m tonight at 21.55 South African time – but he very nearly missed out on the London Olympics altogether.
The 20-year-old from King William’s Town heralded a revolution in South African sprinting last night when he chased double-100m gold medallist Usain Bolt to the line in the 200m semi-final, the only man to give the giant Jamaican a run for his money.
Afterwards he said: "I wasn't thinking about how tough it was racing against Bolt, I just wanted to run my own race. I ran the bend well, I'll have to look at the tape to see how I did. I was gunning for a semi-final, it's a bonus now. It was amazing to be on the tail of Usain Bolt. Beat him in the final? Hahaha! Next few years!"
Few expected that swift feat from Jobodwane after he spent most of 2011 out with injury – and was named as a “late addition” to Team South Africa after meeting SASCOC’s stuper-stringent qualifying standards just two weeks before the deadline.
Nobody doubts the “Ambitious Jay” pedigree. Two years ago, as a student at Selborne College, Jobodwane won the South African schools 200m in a record 20.95secs.
Then he became an All-American track and field champion with an indoor time of 20.66secs.  That was followed by an outdoor time of 20.32 in March while studying biology at Jackson State University in Mississippi – well within the Olympic “A” qualifying time of 20.55.
While that would have been enough for most national Olympic selection panels, SASOC requires TWO of those “A” qualifying times, a dubious policy which saw Africa 100m champion Simon Magakwe fail to make the team for London despite equalling the South Africa record of 10.07secs and running under 10 seconds in training.
With that sort of snub in mind, Jobodwane left his studies in the USA to focus on qualifying for London 2012 – which he finally did with a time of 20.50 to take victory at the obscure 17th Miner’s Day International Athletics Meeting in the remote Slovenian town of Velenje.
On July 4, he was one of the 14 athletes added to South Africa’s original team of125 named on June 6. But with no sprint medal won by South Africa since 1910, when Durban’s Reggie Walker became the world’s youngest Olympic 100m champion in London, few thought Jobodwane would emerge as a finalist.
Before last night’s personal best of 20.27, Jobodwana's best time of 20.32 seconds ranked him 22nd in the world this year. Afterwards, he added: “I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I didn't expect it... I was just going out there to run a personal best. So I got that and I got to the final - a bonus.”
Having just turned 20, Jobodwane has a lot in common with Chad le Clos, the man who won gold and silver in the pool for South Africa last week. Like Chad, Anaso said before London he would be happy to use 2012 as preparation for Rio in 2016. And like Le Clos, he finds himself up against a legend.
But where Le Clos – who arrived back in Johannesburg this morning to a hero’s welcome - edged out Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly final by 0.05 of a second, Jobodwane surely has no chance of pipping the lightning Bolt to the line – or his Jamaican team-mate Yohan Blake.
After Bridgette Hartley’s bronze – South Africa’s fifth medal – in the K1 500 at Dorney this morning, Jobodwane would do well to finish in the top five (he'd have to run under 20 seconds for the first time in his life to get close to a medal) while Sunette Viljoen, second in qualifying, goes for gold in the javelin tonight and Caster Semenya runs in the 800m semi-finals at 8.30pm.
Still, like Le Clos, Jobodwane appears to have a father who is a bit of a character. Mkhuseli Jobodwana, director of remand administration at the Department of Correctional Services head office in Pretoria, told The New Age: “I am very excited. Do you even need to ask what we’ll do for my boy when he gets back?
“We are going to have a huge traditional celebration at our village in Khwetyana in the Eastern Cape because he didn’t only make us proud, but the entire village and country.
“We will slaughter two or more fat cows as one will not be enough.”

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