Deji’s Doodles: Simbine outshines American duo, Sha’Carri fumbles yet again as we were served a treat at the East Coast relays

What a weekend of action we had in track and field! From the USATF Bermuda Grand Prix, which had its usual windy times, to the second Diamond League of the year in China (Suzhou), athletes are already giving us indications of what to expect leading up to the Olympics in July. Oh yes, we also had a sprinkle of fast times at the LSU and Texas Invitational in the United States. First, let’s unpack some of the major talking points from the weekend’s action.

Akani Simbine isn’t down and out yet!

There is a reason they call Akani Simbine “Mr. Consistency.” It’s a title that has come to stick with him because of his level of turning up when it matters most and not running away from a race. Simply put, he always shows up. While all the talk leading up to the 100m at the Suzhou Diamond League was about the matchup between 2019 World Champion Christian Coleman and 2022 World Champion Fred Kerley, the South African reigned supreme at the end of the day.

Simbine, despite being the most experienced on the grid (he’s been competing at the top stage since 2016 and has made every major championship final—except 2023), still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Partly, that’s because he’s South African and has yet to win any major title. The latter is the most important feature of this sport: fast times and titles. Even at the presser before the race, the talk was about how Coleman could lower his personal best.

Akani Simbine, 2022 African Championships, by Deji Ogeyingbo

However, this race showed us that winning is still the name of the game, and if there is anybody who is darn good at it, it’s Simbine. One could chalk his win (10.01s) to the fact that he’s had a head start to the season compared to his rivals, as the South African outdoor season starts in early February, but most importantly, he never lets the pressure get to him.

The way he was able to reel back Coleman after the American blistering start and the presence of mind to surge past Kerley was a beauty to behold. Simbine knows he’s got minimal time to win a major championship. However, this win is a booster as he looks to get his hands on an Olympic medal this summer.

Should we be worried about Sha’Carri?

What is really happening to Sha’Carri Richardson? She was still in College then. Over the weekend, the reigning world champion lost her second race a week after finishing third in the women’s 200m at the Suzhou Diamond League in China, clocking a time of 23.11s. You’d have to go all the way back to 2019 to see the last time she ran a 23-second race in the 200m.

Again, it might be early to judge, but as they always say, something is going wrong if the signs are not good. The last time we saw Richardson in this form was in the latter part of the 2022 season after she failed to make the United States team at the Eugene World Championships.

ShaCarri Richardson, Budapest 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Although she bounced back to win Gold and Bronze at last year’s world championships in Budapest, Richardson might return to her old habits. No two seasons are the same, but an athlete needs to be able to show a decent level of consistency at the very least, and Richardson hasn’t been able to prove that in her professional career so far.

The women’s 100m hurdles continue to throw up subplots.

If there is one event that always whets the appetite of the fans, then look further than the women’s 100m hurdles. Pure drama, a rivalry for the ages, and most importantly, great running times. In Suzhou, the Olympic champion Camacho-Quinn finished leveling with Tobi Amusan in the 100m hurdles. Still, with Amusan running under protest following a false start, Camacho-Quinn secured the win in 12.63, just 0.01 ahead of world indoor 60m hurdles champion and world record-holder Devynne Charlton.

Camacho-Quinn must have had nerves of steel to pull ahead by just 0.01 seconds. It’s always impressive to see athletes perform under pressure like that. It must have been quite the moment for her to secure the win, especially with such strong competition from Tobi Amusan and Charlton.

Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, 2022 Bermuda Games, photo by Kevin Morris

For Tobi Amusan, finishing level with Camacho-Quinn in the 100m hurdles but running under protest due to a false start means that her performance is subject to review and potential disqualification depending on the outcome of the protest. If the protest is upheld, her final result in the race could be adjusted accordingly, potentially impacting her standing in the competition.

However, regardless of the outcome of the protest, Tobi Amusan’s performance in the race demonstrates her talent and competitiveness as an athlete. She was able to match Camacho-Quinn’s speed and skill, which is no small feat in such a high-level competition. So, while the immediate result may be uncertain pending the protest, her strong showing in the race is still noteworthy.

Noah Lyles seems to be getting into shape.

Noah Lyles continues to show his dominance with his victory in the 100m at the USATF Bermuda Grand Prix. Clocking in at 9.96 seconds, despite a slightly unfavorable wind, shows an improvement from his previous 100m race from two weeks ago. His ability to accelerate during the race, even with what he described as an average start, highlights his athleticism and competitive mindset. He’s going to get better at it, really. Maybe there is a price to pay for his focus on the 100m. It might be good or bad.

Noah Lyles’ early-season performances have been consistently impressive, especially considering his 9.95-second wind-legal 100m time in 2023. This set the stage for his remarkable season, culminating in winning the world title with a personal best of 9.83 seconds. This indicates that he has the potential to build upon his successes from previous years and continue to excel as the season progresses.

Noah Lyles took the 100m in Bermuda, 2024 Bermuda Grand Prix, photo by USATF

The emergence of young talent like Christian Miller, who recently posted a world-leading wind-legal time of 9.93 seconds, adds an exciting dynamic to what sprinters could do this year. Surely, it’s just a matter of time before the big boys get into the 9.80 zone this year.

With many top sprinters yet to debut this season or still in the process of gearing up for trials and the Olympics, it’s clear that the sprinting events will be highly competitive and closely watched as the season unfolds. For Lyles, his indoor season has given us a better perspective on his fitness over the 100 meters.

Jacobs, De Grasse, and Bromell Serve us a treat at the East Coast Relays.

We all crave these sorts of meetings among the top sprinters, and they pull it off somewhere in Florida. Not that it’s a bad idea, but hey, if we want the sort of allure that other sports get, we have to find a way of getting the word out about such marquee races. It doesn’t matter if it is a tune-up race; the fans want to see the best go head-to-head.

Andre De Grasse, after the 200 meters, Budapest, screenshot by Deji Ogeyingbo

The East Coast Relays was a tightly contested race, with Andre De Grasse narrowly edging out reigning Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs. De Grasse’s time of 10.103 seconds just surpassed Jacobs’ 10.106 seconds, showcasing the high level of competition between the two athletes. It’s interesting to note that all three top finishers, De Grasse, Jacobs, and Bromell, train together at the Tumbleweed Track Club in Jacksonville, Fla., which adds an intriguing dynamic to their rivalry on the track.

While De Grasse secured the victory, it’s worth mentioning that he fell short of the Olympic qualifying time of 10s. With the Olympic qualification period from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024, athletes like De Grasse will aim to achieve the necessary standards to compete on the world stage in Paris. With such tight competition and the ongoing pursuit of Olympic qualification, the sprinting events will deliver thrilling performances as athletes push themselves to reach their peak form for the upcoming Games.