Going into the 100m Youth Olympics sprints, 17 year old Luke Davids was the clear favourite to take the gold. On Monday, he proved himself to be the best young 100m sprinter in the world by taking the gold, breaking the 2018 record, and equalling the all-time under-18 record.
On Monday, Luke comfortably outpaced his closest competitor with a time of 10.15 seconds. Despite being comfortably ahead, Luke had to speed up when second placed, Alaba Olukunle Akintola from Nigeria, tried to overtake him. Alaba took the silver with a time of 10.24 seconds.
Luke started his race to the top on Friday, when he effortlessly won in the qualifying stage with a time of 10.56 seconds. In total, Luke is the only athlete that ran a time of less than 20 seconds and he ran 0.29 seconds faster than his closest competitor.
Luke’s record breaking 100m time of 10.15 seconds is not only his personal best, but the best international time for under-18 in 2018. It is also equal to the all-time under-18 record which was set last year by US athlete, Anthony Schwartz.
Luke says that his love affair with sprinting began when, at the age of 7 years old, he was “bribed” with KFC. Born and raised in Belhar, Cape Town, he was initially a rugby player but because he was quick with the ball, his teacher wanted him to compete in the running competition. At the time, he was not interesting in running but his teacher offered to buy him some KFC if he raced. He accepted, came first, and thanks to his love of KFC, he is on his way to sprinting superstardom. However, the Luke that won all of his races is the product of dedicated and hard working women.
He says that his biggest inspiration is his grandmother who succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to, “no matter what”. He says that when he is running, he tries to apply the same kind of unstoppable mentality of his grandmother. He also says that his greatest supporter is his mom, Celeste. The disciplined Celeste says that she is extremely proud of Luke’s achievements and she is especially proud of how humble he is, no matter how far he goes. She is however a strict mom and is adamant that success won’t go to his head. Her rule is that regardless of his success, he will do his homework, complete matric and go to university. She believes that no matter who you are, education is the key to success.
Luke says that he only became serious about running in 2016 but knew that it would become a career in 2017. This was when he won his first medal at the South African Championships, a 100m bronze. It was not the gold, but he says it meant the world to him because it was then that he knew that that he could compete against the best. For the first time in his life, he had a burning desire to be the best sprinter, and as things stand now, he might just be one of the greatest. However, just having a hunger for gold does not mean that you will get gold. It takes hard work and as all successful people will tell you, a lot of sacrifices and disappointments.
After his domestic success, Luke went on to compete in the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games held in the Bahamas. Despite his hard work and determination, he placed 7th in the 100m race and 5th in the 200m. However, with the burning desire to get the gold, Luke persevered and continued to apply the tough mentality of his grandmother and disciplined attitude of his mother. His determination not only paid off in 2018, but ensured that he would become one of the greatest.
Earlier this year, at the age of 16, he was crowned the under 18 200m gold medallist champion at the CAA Southern Region Youth and Junior Championships that was held in Johannesburg. Of this medal he says that he did not really expect to win because he did not put in a great performance during the semi-finals. However, not giving up just yet, he remembered what his coach, Nathan Van Wyk, had taught him and he went on to clinch the gold. During this tournament, he also took the silver in the 100m and helped the South African relay team break the South African record with a gold medal winning time of 40.77 seconds.
Next he went on to compete at the All Africa Games in Algiers, placing first in both the 100m and 200m. He took the 100m gold with a time of 10.34 seconds and the 200m silver with a time of 21.04 seconds. It is safe to say that at this point, he is a 100m specialist with the potential to become a gold medalling specialist in the 200m. On representing his country, Luke feels that it is an honour and a privilege to bring home the gold, wearing the green and gold. As for the future, Luke plans on completing matric, doing a degree in Sports Science at the University of the Western Cape, winning as many medals as possible, and qualifying for the World Under-20 Championships. That’s not too hard to achieve when you’re mentors are a disciplined mother and a grandmother that is unstoppable.