The SA relay team of Mihlali Xotyeni, Benjamin Richardson, Sinesipho Dambile and Lucky Moleyane set a new record at the Under-20 World Championships in Kenya. Photo: Gallo Images
The irony of South Africa’s junior men’s relay team setting a new world record at the recently concluded world championships, while the senior team escaped the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo, is hard to ignore.
The quartet of Mihlali Xhotyeni (18), Sinesipho Dambile (19), Letlhogonolo Moleyane (18) and Benjamin Richardson (17) won gold at the U20 World Athletics Championships in Kenya last week.
They wowed the competition with a sensational time of 38.51 seconds, accomplishing what many South Africans had hoped the senior men’s relay team would do at the Games. However, the effort of this team ended in heartbreak when Clarence Munyai and Shaun Maswanganyi let go of the baton during their exchange in the sleeves.
Three months earlier, the team of Munyai, Akani Simbine, Thando Dlodlo and Gift Leotlela had won gold at the world relay championships in Poland.
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Now the question is: What’s next for the heroes of the Kenya Championships?
TuksSport High School student-athlete Richardson, who anchored the team to the new junior world record, has said he wants to repeat their feat at 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 takes a lot of discipline. He needs 100% dedication because nothing less would be enough.
“Winning gold made me hungrier. It gave me more motivation to work hard and go far in my athletic career. My dream is to be the best athlete I can be and someday compete in the Olympics. It would be an incredible feeling.
The Nelspruit-born ace said that while he expected a long and successful career on the track, he wasn’t going to put unnecessary pressure on himself.
“Next year I plan to compete at the U-20 World Championships in Colombia again. I feel I can do more to improve myself, ”he said.
His teammate Dambile believes it is only a matter of time before the South Africans win medals in the 100m or relays at the Olympics.
“It’s unfortunate that we came very close, but we haven’t won yet. I thought we had a good chance this year, especially in the relay. But I think it’s going to happen someday because of the number of great quality sprinters the country is producing, ”said Dambile, who is also enrolled at TuksSport High School.
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Xhotyeni, Dambile and Richardson are all based in Pretoria while Moleyane is at Gray College in Bloemfontein.
Athletics SA President James Moloi said it was important to help junior athletes take their to the next level.
“I must congratulate all of our athletes for representing us with distinction. We are very proud of what our juniors have accomplished at the World Championships. These athletes are the future and we have to give them the necessary support from a junior level, ”said Moloi, adding:
Before we compete in the Olympics again, we need to look at the development of our athletes. There is no doubt that we have the talent, but we have to prepare them properly for the world stage.
The success of the youth quartet in Nairobi was not the first time that local sprinters made their way through an international event.
In 2017, Tshenolo Lemao won gold in the 100m, and Retshidisitswe Mlenga did the same in the 200m at the IAAF U18 World Championships, also in Kenya.
Lemao now has a scholarship at Florida State University in the United States.