Photo of Akani Simbine winning 150m and equaling SA record in a time of 15.08 seconds.

Photo credit: Backtrack Sports

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Van der Merwe makes it two in a row

The one-hundred meter junior hurdles sensation, Antoinette van der Merwe, showed that she is the athlete to beat this season when she cruised to three consecutive victories while Caster Semenya and Akani Simbine showcased record breaking shape at the two-leg Newton Classic Shootout presented by Backtrack Sports and Nike.

Hoerskool Waterkloof played host to the first leg of the Newton Classic Shootout, an event organized by Backtrack Sports for the eighth consecutive year, on 7 February. The first leg saw top class sprinters lining up in six different events – 60m men, 60m women, 60mh men, 60mh women, 300m men, 600m women. World championships semi-finalist Thapelo Phora was the name on everyone’s lips, but the new generations of sprinters stepped up to the plate and delivered performances that raised eyebrows at the LC de Villiers Stadium in Pretoria.

Antoinette van der Merwe, the 2019 South African junior 100m hurdles champion, exploded out of the blocks to win the women’s 60m hurdles in 8.56 seconds, and the 60m, not even ten minutes later, in 7.49 seconds. Valeska Nel (Varsity College) finished second ahead of Zinzi Chabangu (UJ). Van der Merwe was the leader of a group of young athletes who outshined their more experienced competitors that evening. Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi (Tuks), the African junior 200m champion, took the honors in the men’s 60m race (6.56 seconds), outclassing class athletes like Obakeng Maoka (UJ) and Shaahid Motala (Tuks).  But that’s not all, Sinesipho Dambile (18) and Amy Naude (18) also came out on top! The powerful Dambile went head-to-head with Thapelo Phora to win the men’s 300m race in 32.10 seconds. Phora finished in 32.13 seconds ahead of Zakhiti Nene (32.92 seconds). In the women’s 600m shootout, Naude stunned the crowd by shooting to the front and maintaining the lead to win the race in 1:30.48, outwitting Niene Muller (1:31.07) and Anuscha Nice (1:31.26).

Ruan de Vries won the men’s 60m hurdles in a time of 7.87 seconds for the debut event.

Semenya, Simbine in record-breaking shape

Caster Semenya returned to the track with a bang after seven months at the Newton Classic Shootout hosted by Helpmekaar Goue Liga. She clocked a new South African best of 36.78 seconds to win the women’s 300m battle, going nearly one second faster than her previous personal best at the University of Johannesburg Stadium on 14 February. She is confident and nothing will be able to stop the confident Caster Semenya. Talk about confidence, another woman who exudes it is Taylon Bieldt. She started out boldly on the outside lane of Semenya, and she managed to hold on down the home-straight to finish second in a personal best time of 37.22 seconds. New-kid-on-the-block, Kirsten Ahrens, finished third. In the men’s 150m, Akani Simbine, the world championships finalist flew over the line to win the race in 15.08 seconds, equaling the South African best set by Anaso Jobodwana in 2018. But the African champion didn’t have it easy; Clarence Munyai, the South African 200m record holder, and Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi pushed him all the way. Munyai (15.13 seconds) finished second and Maswanganyi (15.25) third.

In the women’s 150m, Antoinette van der Merwe, proved too strong for the remainder of her competitors. With Tsaone Sebele from Botswana withdrawing due to injury, Cassidy Williamson was touted the favorite to win the women’s event, but clearly Van der Merwe wanted a different story to be told. Three races, three wins for the young Tuks athlete. Kabelo Mohlosi, in the men’s 600m, ran a tactically smart race to win. Mohlosi ran in the back of the pack for most of the first 400m. Only in the final home-straight did he appear, and when he appears in front of you in the final 50m, there’s no stopping him.

Semenya, Simbine and Van der Merwe are in great shape and nothing can stop Dambile, Naude and Maswanganyi. The stadiums were packed and the athletes delivered at the 2020 Newton Classic presented by Backtrack Sports and Nike.


Written by Reggie Hufkie