The SA relay with Mihlali Xotyeni, Benjamin Richardson, Sinesipho Dabile and Lucky Moleyane set a new record at the U20 World Cup in Kenya. Photo: Gallo Images
The irony that South Africa’s junior squadron set a new world record in the recently concluded World Championships while the senior squad fumbled in the recent Tokyo Olympics is hard to ignore.
The quartet of Mihlali Xhotyeni (18), Sinesipho Dabile (19), Letlhogonolo Moleyane (18) and Benjamin Richardson (17) won gold at the U20 World Athletics Championships in Kenya last week.
With a sensational time of 38.51 seconds, they blew the competition away and achieved what many South Africans had hoped for from the men’s senior relay at the games. This team’s efforts ended in heartbreak, however, when Clarence Munyai and Shaun Maswanganyi dropped the baton during their exchanges in the heats.
Three months earlier, the team of Munyai, Akani Simbine, Thando Dlodlo and Gift Leotlela had won gold at the relay world championships in Poland.
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Now the question is: What’s next for the heroes of the Kenyan championships?
TuksSport High School student athlete Richardson, who led the team to the new junior world record, said his wish was to repeat her performance in the Olympics one day.
Richardson, who also won silver in the 100m with a time of 10.28 seconds, said:
I can’t speak for other athletes, but athletics requires a lot of discipline. It takes 100% dedication because nothing less would be good enough.
“Earning gold made me hungry for more. It has given me more motivation to work hard and go far in my athletics career. My dream is to become the best athlete I can be and one day to be able to take part in the Olympics. That would be an incredible feeling. “
The ace, who was born in Nelspruit, said that while he was looking forward to a long and fruitful career on the racetrack, he would not put himself under unnecessary pressure.
“I plan to compete in the U20 World Cup in Colombia again next year. I feel like I can do more to improve, ”he said.
His teammate Dambile believes it is only a matter of time before the South Africans win 100m medals or relay medals at the Olympics.
“It’s unfortunate that we got very close but haven’t won yet. I thought we had a good chance this year, especially the season. But I think it will happen one day because the country produces so many top sprinters, ”said Dabile, who is also enrolled at TuksSport High School.
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Xhotyeni, Dambile and Richardson all live in Pretoria, while Moleyane studies at Gray College in Bloemfontein.
Athletics SA President James Moloi said it was important to help young athletes get to the next level.
“I have to congratulate all of our athletes for representing us with distinction. We are very proud of what our juniors achieved at the World Championships. The future belongs to these athletes and we need to give them the support they need from the junior level, ”said Moloi, adding:
Before we go back to the Olympics, we have to look at the development of our athletes. There is no doubt that we have the talent, but we need to properly prepare them for the world stage.
The success of the young quartet in Nairobi was not the first time that local sprinters paved a way at an international event.
In 2017 Tshenolo Lemao won gold over 100 m and Retshidisitswe Mlenga over 200 m at the IAAF U18 World Championships, also in Kenya.
Lemao is now on a scholarship from Florida State University in the USA.