CAPE TOWN - He was denied by strong tail-winds previously, but now Shaun Maswanganyi can finally pack his bags for the Tokyo Olympics.
The 20-year-old from Soweto, who is based at the University of Houston (UH) in Texas, qualified for Japan on Saturday in the 100m and 200m events.
Running for the UH Cougars at the NCAA Preliminary West Round in Texas, Maswanganyi set new personal bests of 10.04 seconds and 20.19 seconds in the 100m and 200m respectively – beating his previous marks of 10.06 and 20.31.
The Olympic qualifying times were 10.05 (100m) and 20.24 (200m), and while Maswanganyi had beaten both times before, the wind readings were illegal.
The former St Alban’s College in Pretoria schoolboy had run 9.87 and 19.93 recently, but needed the races to be run within the legal wind limit of +2.0 metres per second (m/s) in order to qualify for Tokyo.
That happened on Saturday, where the wind reading for the 100m was 0.0m/s and +0.3m/s in the 200m.
The 20.19 time is the 13th fastest in the world in 2021, with American Terrance Laird leading with 19.81.
The performances would’ve provided even greater relief for Maswanganyi on Saturday, as he had clocked 10.05 in a 100m heat on Wednesday – matching the Olympic qualifying time – but with a tail-wind of +2.8m/s.
His legal time of 10.04 means that he joins Gift Leotlela (9.94) and Akani Simbine (9.99) as 100m qualifiers for Team South Africa.
The 20.19 200m time is also the quickest legal time by a South African since 2019, when national record-holder Clarence Munyai ran 20.04. Munyai’s fastest time last year was 20.23, which ensured his passage to Tokyo.
Each country are allowed three entrants in each athletics event, so as things stand, that will be Leotlela, Simbine and Maswanganyi in the 100m and Munyai and Maswanganyi in the 200m.
It is hoped that Luxolo Adams, who missed the SA championships in April due to injury, will be able to qualify in the 200m in Europe over the next few weeks, as he has a personal best of 20.01 he ran in 2018. His best time this year is 20.34.
Of course, 400m world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk is also well capable of qualifying in the 200m, and he will hope to shake off the hip issue he picked up during a 200m race in Boston recently. He posted a short video on his Instagram stories on Saturday, which showed him track-side during a training session in Florida, which was captioned: “Another positive day.”
But for Maswanganyi, things are looking up. Apart from the 100m and 200m times, he also showed his form in the 4x100m relay, anchoring the UH Cougars to victory over the weekend in 39.02 seconds. So, he can form part of the SA 4x100m relay squad as well in Tokyo.
Next up for him will be the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships – effectively the national college championships – which will take place at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon from June 9-12.