SIX months ago teenager Anaso Jobodwana had no ambitions of running at the London Olympics. But with less than three weeks to go before the Games, he is quietly hoping for a place in the semifinals.
Jobodwana, who is expected to be among the few new names included in SA's final Olympic team today, has had a breakthrough season, twice dipping under the 20,55 seconds qualifying standard in the men's 200m sprint.
"I had not initially expected to go to London," Jobodwana said on Monday. "I was injured the whole 2011 season and I didn't think I could pick it up like that."
Jobodwana, who turns 20 on July 30, set a personal best of 20,95 at the age of 17.
Bursting back from his lengthy layoff after a hamstring injury, he clocked 20,66 at an indoor meeting in Idaho in March, and dipped under the Games standard for the first time when he stormed to a 20,32 personal best in Mississippi in April.
Last month, two weeks before SA's qualifying deadline, he met the criteria by running 20,50 in Velenje in Slovenia.
"I want to try and bring my time down - that's the goal at the moment - but I'm hoping to make the semifinals ," he said.
"I haven't set any real targets for the Games, though, and I haven't written anything down, so I'm not putting pressure on myself."
A student at Jackson State University in Mississippi, Jobodwana hopes to spend the rest of his Olympic build-up with his family in King William's Town.
"I might run one or two more races in Europe," he said, "but I'm looking forward to getting back home now and then we'll see."
Middle-distance runner Andre Olivier, who qualified for the Games when he secured the 800m bronze medal at the African Athletics Championships in Benin last week, is also expected to join the 112-member provisional Olympic squad named in the first week of last month.
Open water swimmers Troy Prinsloo and Jess Roux made strong bids for selection by finishing fifth and 31st, the best of the small South African squad at a qualifying event in Setubal, Portugal, last month.
The focus, however, will be on "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, who hopes to compete in the able-bodied Games despite missing the qualifying standard in the individual one-lap sprint by 0,22 seconds.
While he is unlikely to be chosen in his specialist event, the double amputee will spearhead the country's 4x400m relay team in London, provided the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee approve their selection.
National one-lap hurdles record holder LJ van Zyl, who led the relay team to the silver medal at last year's world championships in Daegu, fell ill and was unable to compete at the continental championships.
In his absence, Pistorius, PC Beneke, Ofentse Mogawane and Willie de Beer finished second in the final, and Athletics SA president James Evans believes they proved their worth.
"The 4x400m relay team are the world championships silver medallists," he said. "They again showed what they're capable of in Benin and they must go to London."