South African sprinter Akani Simbine will begin a streamlined international season against an all star field at the Shanghai meet of the IAAF Diamond League.
The African and Commonwealth champion will have his work cut out for him in a field that includes 2018 Diamond League 100m champion Christian Coleman.
Simbine’s coach, Werner Prinsloo said before the meet that the sprinter would be focused on peaking at the World Championships in Doha later this season.
“The goal is that each time he should be a little bit better than his previous race. If he does, there will be fast times. That is one of the reasons why Akani will be racing a lot less this season than he usually would.”
The American trio of Coleman, Michael Rodgers and Noah Lyles pose the threat of a star spangled podium in Shanghai but they aren’t the only runners with ambitions of a top three finish. Both Chinese runners Su Bingtian and Xie Zhenye have clocked sub-ten personal bests and will be running on home turf. British sprinting hot prospect Reece Prescod could also make a big statement after his silver at the 2018 European Championships. The three Americans are the only sprinters in the field with a better personal best than Simbine.
“It is an excellent lineup. I won’t be surprised if all nine athletes will qualify at the World Championships at least for the semifinals,” said Prinsloo.
“It is Akani’s first 100m race for the season. Over the last few years, he was off to a fast start in each of his first races, but tomorrow it is not about time. Winning or at least a top-three finish will be more important.
“Whoever wins might have a slight psychological edge for the rest of the season. It will be like putting out a challenge saying this is what I am capable of, can you do better? If everything goes according to plan, it could be Akani.”
The mens 100m will be run at 14:53 SAST on Saturday 18 May in Shanghai. Other SA athletes in action will be double international Sunette Viljoen in the javelin, Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai in the long jump and Clarence Munyai in the mens 200m.