AKANI Simbine achieved his own chunk of history at the Rio Games on Sunday, even if it was overshadowed by his friends Wayde van Niekerk and Usain Bolt.
Simbine, 22, became the first South African man since Danie Joubert at the 1932 Games in Los Angeles to make the 100m final at the Olympics.
Like Joubert, Simbine finished fifth, crossing the line in 9.94sec, the second-best time of his career, but he was agonisingly close to reaching the podium. He missed out on a medal by three-hundredths of a second.
The 9.89 personal best he ran in Europe in July would have earned him a share of silver alongside American Justin Gatlin.
Jamaican superstar Bolt captured his third Olympic 100m gold in 9.81, and Canadian Andre De Grasse was third in 9.91.
“I’m really happy,” Simbine said. “I’m just disappointed I tensed up at the end and I lost that bronze medal.
“I watched the video and I was actually in third spot … I just tightened up in the last five metres and that’s where I lost it.
“But I’m pretty happy with the placing I got and the time I got at the Olympics,” Simbine said.
The only South African man who has won an Olympic 100m medal is Reggie Walker, who took gold in London in 1908.
Simbine had to wait before finding out whether he had qualified for the final as fastest loser.
The top two finishers from the three semifinals were automatic qualifiers, with the two fastest losers taking the final two lanes.
Simbine had been third in his semifinal, but his impressive 9.98 secured him a spot in the blue-riband event.
The South African’s clocking two sub-10 runs 90 minutes apart is impressive — Bolt himself complained about the schedule afterwards, saying he had never had less than two hours between events before.
This was the biggest stage Simbine has ever competed on, but he was “really calm”, he insisted. “The main goal here was just to make the final. At the beginning of the year I told myself I need to make the final, and after the semi it was like deal done.”
Due to compete at the Paris and Zurich Diamond Leagues, in the off-season he plans to implement the tips on starting he received from Bolt’s coach, Glen Mills, during a training camp in Jamaica in June.