Sport24.co.za | Adams conquers the world in his 'other' track event

Sport24.co.za | Adams conquers the world in his 'other' track event
Sport24.co.za | Adams conquers the world in his 'other' track event

Cape Town - Luxolo Adams, the Eastern Cape athlete who has made a massive breakthrough as a sprinter this year, didn't even do it in his best event.

The Burgersdorp native, who now runs out of Port Elizabeth, has made his name in the 200m by finishing ahead of American Justin Gatlin in the Athletix Grand Prix - beating 2015 world bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana in the same series - and winning the national championship title.

He cracked three Diamond League invites, claiming silver for South Africa at the World Cup and upgrading his personal best to 20.01 seconds.

As big as the year has been for the first-year business management student - his watershed season will conclude with him representing the country at the African Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, this week - Adams reckons the 400m is his best event.

"My coach (Gerrie Posthumus) and I wanted to increase my speed in the 400m by doing the 200m," said the 21-year-old. "We felt that, if I could get a sub-20, I would get more speed in my legs and go back to the 400m."

The catch is that Adams' best time in the one-lap sprint is a rather leisurely 46.37 seconds.

"That time was from 2015, but I still consider myself a 400m runner because I've got a good technique and transition, I just need the speed to get to sub-44. But that's if the 200m doesn't steal me because I'm falling in love with it ..."

After a season of working good as the underdog, Adams flew to Nigeria on Friday as the favourite.

"Being the number one, my focus is on winning and my other threat is time. I’m hoping to get a new personal best - a sub-20 - so I can be in that exclusive club."

Adams' route to being the top dog took as many twists as his unlikely career as a sprinter. Sprint prodigy Clarence Munyai was supposed to have owned the 200m at the national champs, having run the South African record of 19.69 seconds in the semi-finals.

But he and Akani Simbine pulled out of the final, paving the way for Adams.

"I was disappointed the big guys didn’t race because, when you've worked hard, you think you're going to have a big race. If they were there, they would have raised the competition. But it was ... my best achievement, and it opened doors for me abroad. Also, beating Gatlin made a big difference because it gave me the indication that if I worked harder, I could do more."

While the national championships opened the door a crack for Adams, winning his first race in Hengelo in Holland threw it wide open and got him invitations to the Stockholm, Paris and Monaco Diamond League meetings, which culminated in his clinching silver at the World Cup in London.

This is all a far cry from the kid who ran for sweets at Mzimkhulu Primary School.

"We had a teacher who gave us sweets every time we won a race. At the time, I did it for the sweets, but then I saw Usain Bolt run at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing ..."

Suddenly, sprinting was all Adams wanted to do, which was a loss for soccer as the former goalkeeper and attacking midfielder could no longer be bothered with that sport.

Winning the SA Schools title in 2014, a year in which he trained with 400m world junior champion Sokwakhana Zazini, meant an approach from the Eastern Cape Academy of Sport and an ultimate transfer to Port Elizabeth.

Remembering where he came from helped Adams not feel overwhelmed when he came up against athletes he'd only seen on TV: "When you get there, you get frightened a bit, but then you have to refocus and tell yourself you've come a long way and are not just representing yourself."

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