At 19, South Africa’s Clarence Munyai is the second-youngest competitor in the men’s 200-metre line-up at the IAAF World Championships in London, but he’s not going to defer to his seniors when it comes to racing for the line.
The TuksSport High School Grade 12 scholar firmly believes that facts and numbers in a passport count for absolutely nothing once an athlete steps on to the track to race, even when racing against the world’s best.
‘There’s going to be no indication in the World Championships results saying I’m a learner at a school. The only thing it will show is the time I ran, and the position I finished in. I can honestly say I’m not intimidated to race against the top sprinters. I guess I’m lucky in a way, because I’ve had the opportunity to race against Akani Simbine, Wayde van Niekerk and Thando Roto in our local races.
‘They count among the best. I also had the opportunity to compete in the Diamond League Meeting in Rabat, and I’m sure the experience I gained will stand me in good stead in London.’
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Japan) is younger than him, but only by two weeks.
Munyai is certainly no slouch. Of the 59 athletes from 42 countries who will be competing in the 200m, he’s 10th-fastest, with a personal best of 20.10. Van Niekerk is currently the second-fastest, with a time 19.84 and Simbine the third-fastest, with a time of 19.95.
He has set himself definite goals for the World Championships. ‘I want to try and qualify for the semi-finals. I think that is doable. A time of 20.30 in the heats ought to be good enough. The semi-finals are going to be tough. In fact, it is going to be war. Everybody will be racing flat out, as only eight athletes go through to the final.’
Munyai was paid a big compliment earlier this season by Simbine, after the two of them duelled it out in the 200m. ‘I don’t see Clarence as a youngster anymore. When Clarence lines up next to me, I see him as a competitor. The same as I see Usain Bolt or Justin Gatlin or any of the other top athletes. Clarence is part of us.’
A definite highlight for Munyai was the Golden Spike Meeting in Ostrava, where he set a junior world-best in the 300m, running 31.61s to finish third. Van Niekerk won in 30.81s, setting a senior world-best time.
Munyayi ascribes his success to getting the opportunity to race against his role model, Van Niekerk. ‘Settling in the starting blocks in the same race as Wayde inspired me. Everyone knew he was going to run a world record, and I wanted to be part of the history with him. It was one of my best races I had ever run.’
It will be a historic moment if Munyai can dip under 20 seconds in London. The legendary Usain Bolt (Jamaica) is the only athlete to do so as a junior athlete. He ran a time of 19.93 in 2004 to win in Devonshire.