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Roto out to run his way onto the podium at nationals

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While it’s widely expected that Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies will battle it out for the honour of being crowned fastest man in the country at the national athletics championships in Stellenbosch on Saturday, 20-year-old Thando Roto could well be the one to spoil the party.
Wayde van Niekerk, who earlier this season became only the fourth South African sprinter to break through the 10-second barrier when he ran 9.98sec at the Free State Championships in Bloemfontein, will only compete in the 400m.
This means the battle for bronze medal is wide open and there might even be a surprise result when it comes to winning the silver medal.
The one thing that is certain is that South Africa’s athletics fans need to keep their wits about them nowadays to keep track of who the latest sprint star is. Not a week seems to go by without yet another sterling sprint performance.
Roto (Tuks/HPC) won the SA under-23 100m  title in Germiston recently with a time of 10.16, an Olympic qualification A-standard. Sadly, the wind from behind was too strong.
His official best time so far in the 100 is 10.27, which puts him right into the mix to win a medal in the 100m final on Saturday.
But it’s not just Roto who is capable of causing an upset. The proverbial ‘joker in the pack will be Gift Leotlela (TuksSport High School), who won the SA junior title in a time of 10.21 in Germiston.
Roto was unable to compete for most of last season after injuring his hamstring tendon at a training session three days after he competed in his first league meeting.
Strangely enough, this setback only served to motivate him.
‘My coach, Hennie Kriel (Tuks/HPC), played a major role to keep me motivated. He taught me to take responsibility for my own actions. He’s also great motivator who knows how to get his athletes to perform at their best when it matters.’
Roto, who is a true student of the history of international sprinting, considers Usain Bolt (Jamaica) as a class act.
‘His countryman, Asafa Powell, known as the ‘sub-10 King’ is also high up on my list of heroes, but in my opinion retired Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson, is tops.  He was the first man to run sub 9.8 seconds and he did it at a time when it was thought to be impossible for man to run that fast.  As far as I’m concerned, he is also the quickest starter of all time.’
Johnson won the 100m in a world record time of 9.79s at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul but was disqualified a day later when he tested positive for the misuse of steroids, something that Roto is all too aware of.
‘Don’t get me wrong, there is no way that anybody can condone the use of banned substances in sport, but having watched a lot of videos of Johnson’s racing I still admire him.’
All though Roto is a more than capable 200m sprinter with a best time of 21.12 he prefers the shorter sprint. ‘The 100m is my baby,’ said Roto with a big smile.


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