South African Athletes Unite Against Telkom
South African athletes are uniting against Telkom after the parastatal chose Usain Bolt ahead of local athletes to be the face of their new high speed fibre network campaign. The outcry was precipitated by Akani Simbine’s record breaking run at the inaugural ASA Nite Series After Dark Athletics meet, which took place at the Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria last night.
In his first real 100m race of the season, Simbine broke the tape in a time of 9.96 seconds – a new South African record. Simbine’s new mark eclipses the previous record of 9.97 that he shared with recent training partner Henrico Bruintjies. The record was met with a mixture of excitement and disappointment as athletes spoke out against Telkom’s decision to snub the likes of Simbine in favour Bolt. World Championship 1500m bronze medallist Johan Cronje tweeted:
Cronje is not the first world class South African athlete to take offence to Telkom’s #BoltSpeed campaign. Last year World Championship 200m bronze medalist and 200m Olympic finalist Anaso Jobodwana expressed dismay that Wayde van Niekerk (the fastest man in the world over 400m at the moment) was overlooked. “It seems so weird. That was so disappointing. Akani is 30 minutes away. Wayde can take a flight. If they are trying to advertise that they are the fastest in the world, then Wayde is the fastest in the world and he’s South African,” said Jobodwana.
Telkom’s Managing Executive Group Communication & PR Jacqui O’Sullivan says they chose Bolt because of his appeal as a global brand. “This campaign links Telkom not just to another brand but to an individual who has become a legend in his own lifetime. We’ve got South Africa’s fastest network and Usain Bolt is the fastest man on the planet and is universally known and recognized. We believe this association is a powerful way to communicate the world-class speed of our fibre, through a partnership with Usain Bolt, at the peak of his career,” said O’Sullivan.
But despite being overlooked for the campaign, Simbine remains hopeful that his new record coupled with the performance of other athletes like van Niekerk, will encourage corporates to once again sponsor South African athletes. “I’m hoping that all these big companies will see that we have talent. They can trust in us to sponsor us. Athletics in South Africa is struggling, but with their help we can get onto the same level as the Jamaicans and the Americans because we have the talent, it’s just a matter of nurturing it.”