AFTER winning the 100m at the African Senior Championships in Nigeria, SA athlete Akani Simbine was showered with praises by Africa’s top sprinter Ben Youssef Meite.
The Ivory Coast athlete has thrown down the gauntlet to Simbine, to become the first ever African sprinter to win a major international gold medal.
Meite (32), a long-term rival of Simbine, is challenging Simbine to rewrite the history books by winning a gold medal at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.
Meite says he’s now old and no longer has the legs to meet that objective.
Simbine, who ran a world leading time (9.94) in Africa at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London last month, has accepted the challenge and firmly believes he can become the first African to deliver a rare gold medal.
Simbine won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the men’s 100m final in Gold Coast, Australia in April.
Meite, who is based in the US, was also furious and couldn’t contain his criticism aimed at the Local Organising Committee, for the way they treated athletes, leaving them stranded at Lagos Airport for 24 hours without food and water while they waited for flights to connect to Asaba.
Athletes slept on the cold airport floor as they had nowhere to go.
Meite said: “The organisation is bad. Everything is bad. The track is bad. We’re professionals, but Nigeria is not. This will discourage us from running in future events.”. This is mediocrity at its best.”
Commenting on Akani being a potential Olympic medalist, Meite said the immensely gifted SA sprinter is on the verge of getting there. Meite said: “I talk with him on a regular basis telling him I believe in him.
“I’m turning 32. It’s time for me to retire. It’s Akani’s time to do it.”
Simbine has embraced the challenge and says he’s up to the task.
Simbine and his SA teammates were also stuck at the airport for 24 hours, as they arrived in Lagos on Saturday, but only landed in Asaba on Monday night.
Simbine said: “We all got the same poor treatment. It’s disappointing for the athletes, but we came here for a reason and that’s to win.
“Yeah, I’ve always been ready to be the best. I’ve been blessed with an amazing gift.
“Most people believe I can achieve many things and am what they believe I can do. I can win a world champs or an Olympic gold medal. That ys he loves the attention. motivates me a lot. I came here to be the fastest man in Africa. ”