Anaso Jobodwana. Picture: ROGER SEDRES/GALLO IMAGES
Anaso Jobodwana celebrates his bronze medal and setting a South African record in the 200m at the world athletics championships in Beijing on Thursday. Picture: ROGER SEDRES/GALLO IMAGES

BEIJING — Jamaican legend Usain Bolt; American superstar Justin Gatlin; and SA’s own Anaso Jobodwana first, second and third.

Eastern Cape prospect Jobodwana, who has orbited the greats of world sprinting since the 2012 Olympics, Thursday night touched down on planet podium as he powered to a share of third place in the 200m in the world championships at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.

Inspired by national teammate Wayde van Niekerk’s desperate finish in the 400m the previous night — as well as other track greats, past and present, including Namibian Frank Fredericks — Jobodwana said he kept pushing to catch Panama’s Alonso Edward on the line to split the bronze medal.

Bolt claimed his fourth consecutive 200m world championship crown in 19.55 seconds with Gatlin second in 19.74.

Behind them, Jobodwana rocketed over the 200m in 19.87 seconds to scupper Wayde van Niekerk’s 19.94 national record; two months ago no South African had broken 20 seconds in the 200m, now there are two of them.

A week ago, SA had not won a major sprint medal in 65 years; in two days they have bagged two.

"I was desperate," said Jobodwana. "My coach told me ‘just run as desperate as Wayde looked in the 400m final’.

"I saw Alonso Edwards was in front of me a little bit and I told myself ‘I can catch him, I can catch him’," said Jobodwana, who raced Bolt in the finals and semifinals of the London Games and the 2013 world championships.

Before the race, Bolt had offered him words of encouragement. "We spoke in the call room and he said, ‘are you ready for a 19?’ and I said ‘yeah’ and he said ‘oh, you don’t sound too confident’ and I said ‘no, no, no, I’m ready to run’," Jobodwana said.

During their laps of honour afterwards — after Bolt had been accidentally knocked over by a cameraman on a Segway — the Jamaican and Jobodwana celebrated with a bear hug.

"When he saw me he was like congrats … 19!’ Him talking to me also spurred me on," said Jobodwana, who was also congratulated by Gatlin later with a fist-bump to the shoulder and an earnest "good job, my man".

Jobodwana said he had been advised by Daley Thompson, Britain’s decathlon great, to watch videos of former top sprinters on Thursday, and the one that stuck in his mind was Fredericks’s come-from-behind 200m triumph at the 1993 world championships.

He said had tweaked his groin during his controversial false start in the 100m heats on Saturday night. "I woke up the next morning and I just couldn’t move; I couldn’t stride, anything.

"Luckily we have a good physiotherapist," said Jobodwana, who indicated he would also compete in the 4x100m relay on Saturday.

His bronze medal and the time came as a great relief for Jobodwana, who missed last year’s athletics season because of injury, and had to endure some frustrating races this year in which he failed to break the 20-second barrier.

Ironically, in his season opener, he clocked 19.87 seconds, which was disqualified because of a strong tail wind.

"For a long time, running 20 seconds and 20.20 seconds it didn’t feel like I was part of the elite group of sprinters of the world and now that’s just given me a huge confidence boost.

"I feel I belong with the other guys. I’m going to build on that momentum," he said, emphasising there was room for improvement.

"They’ve pinpointed a lot of areas I could be very good in," said Jobodwana, who trains at the Altis centre in Phoenix, Arizona.

His coach, Stuart McMillan, also wants him to gain 5kg in the next year, and to work on his 100m to improve his speed work.

Jobodwana said his start had not been great on Thursday night. "I was way behind everybody. I had expected to be at least close to the two outside guys when I got up, but they were way in front. I told myself, just run.

"My coach told me if I execute my race the best way I can, I would be on the podium, so when I was running, that’s all I thought about — keeping my form, making sure I don’t break down because in 2013 … I let up in the last 10m of the race. This time I decided to push all the way to the end.

"I thought if I have to be taken out on a stretcher just like Wayde — that was my inspiration for the day — then so be it. I just told myself I had to get out with a medal. I came in the best form of my life."

SA’s only other medal hope on the night, Khotso Mokoena, was eliminated halfway through the triple jump final.

His 16.81m best placed him ninth. Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the US won in 18.21m with Cuba’s 2012 world junior champion, Pedro Pichardo, finishing second on 17.73m.

Caster Semenya was cheerful after her last-place finish in her semifinal heat, saying that the 1 minute 59.59 seconds she had run in the heats the day before had taken its toll.

"We ran under two minutes in the first round, which took a little bit out of me, but we’re happy, man," said Semenya, who clocked 2:03.18, the slowest time of the night. "We can’t complain … after the long injury, so I’m happy. I’m not disappointed that much."