AT THE ripe old age of 25, late-bloomer Antonio Alkana will step onto the Bird’s Nest track tomorrow for his first championship athletics.
The 110m hurdler, who quit work this year to focus on his sport career, took up track and field only after school, and then he started doing hurdles only three years after that.
The father-of-one initially focused on sprinting, achieving a 100m best of 10.27sec, which is why he is in SA’s 4x100m relay team on Saturday.
But he is still learning the nuance of clearing the 10 obstacles that stand just over a metre above the ground.
“Technically I’m not one of the best, but I think I’ve got more speed than most of the other guys,” Alkana, who lives in Blue Downs on the Cape Peninsula, said.
“Most of the time I work on my technique. If I get that right then things are going to happen, you’re going to see faster times,” the hurdler, who is coached by Marcel Otto in Bellville, said.
“My trail leg comes through very slowly, I’m going to get that faster, get on to the ground quicker – spend less time in the air and more time running then I’m going to run faster.”
Alkana is on a steep learning curve after taking up the sport late in his career.
“I only started training for athletics after I finished school, and started focusing on hurdles after two or three years.” He used to work with his father putting up giant advertising posters on the billboards at Cape Town International Airport.
“We worked high up, but I’m not afraid of heights.
“I tried to give it [athletics] a go and it worked out, I made the team for the world champs.”
Ranked 44th in the world with his 13.47sec effort in June, Alkana goes in with measured expectations.
“I’d like to make the next round and walk out with a new personal best, then I’m happy.” He will probably have to be at his best tomorrow – of the 16 men who qualified for the semifinals of this event at the world championships two years ago in Moscow, only two were slower than Alkana’s best time.
Newcomer Justine Palframan, the cousin of former Proteas wicketkeeper Steve, was the latest casualty yesterday morning.
The World Student Games champion crashed out in the 400m heats as she failed even to match her 51.27 personal best, ending her heat in seventh place in 52.45.
“I think the problem was not sticking to my race plan.
“You get to this stage and it’s scary. At World Student Games there were no expectations, but you get here and you get nervous.”
Palframan had initially wanted to scratch from the 200m to focus on the 400m, her preferred race.
“I asked them [team management] to pull me out [of the 200m], but they wouldn’t. So that’s a blessing,” Palframan, who will next race tomorrow, some six hours after Alkana’s debut, said.