The 20-year-old, current TuksAthletics club member, Prudence Sekgodiso (TuksSport High School
matriculant & TuksAthletics Academy graduate), has done what no other South African athlete could do this season. That is to beat a world champion.
This weekend, during the Diamond League Meeting in Rabat, Morocco, she hopes to prove that beating the world's best was no fluke. Sekgodiso was meant to debut on Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic in the USA. Unfortunately, she had to withdraw due to visa problems.
Last month, the Tuks athlete caused a significant upset by Uganda's world champion Halimah Nakaayi at the Kip Keino Classic Meeting in Kenya. Her winning time of 1:58.41 is the fourth-fastest time in the latest 2022 World Athletics Rankings in the women’s 800m category. She is also the only fifth local female 800m athlete to dip under two minutes.
Ilze Wicksell and Eranee van Zyl did so in 1983. Zelda Pretorius ran her first sub-two-minute race in 1991, while Caster Semenya did so in 2009.
In the same way, a moth seemingly can't resist circling a burning candle; Sekgodiso can't resist keeping on pushing the boundaries. The adrenaline rush she gets every time she runs the near-perfect race fuels her passion.
Not surprisingly, she has been getting faster each year. In 2016, she ran a personal best time of 2:10.30. Since then, she has improved her best time by nearly 12 seconds.
An interesting comparison is that the 17-year-old, Sekgodiso was faster than Caster Semenya was at the same age. The Tuks athlete ran 2:03.98, while Semenya's best time as a 17-year-old was 2:04.23. In 2019, she became the youngest athlete to win the 800m at the South African Senior Track & Field Championships. Semenya was 18 when she did so for the first time.
Sekgodiso so nearly quitted last year. Before the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, she tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, she was the world's fastest Under-20 athlete in the girls’ 800m event. It meant she was a definite medal contender.
Despite testing negative on two other tests, she was not allowed to run in Nairobi. According to her coach, Samuel Sepeng, it was a devastating blow. That is why she wanted to stop running. Luckily her coach and family convinced her not to forsake her dreams.
Apart from speedy performances on the track, Sekgodiso and Semenya share a passion for football. Both used to enjoy trying to dribble the ball past their opponents.
Sekgodiso possibly would have continued playing if not for her brother, who convinced her to broaden her horizons.
"He made me watch Caster race on television. Once I did so, I was inspired. I wanted to be like Caster as she is a class act on the track."
Sekgodiso and 15 other Tuks athletes have been selected for the Team South Africa squad competing at the 2022 African Athletics Championships in Mauritius (8-12 June).
The Tuks athletes are Henricho Bruintjies (100m and 4x100m-relay); Benjamin Richardson (200m and 4x100m-relay); Ruan de Vries (110m-hurdles); Hamman le Roux and Constant Pretorius (400m-hurdles and 4x400m-relay); Wayne Snyman (20km race walk); Jovan van Vuuren (long jump); Marlie Viljoen (400m and 4x400m-relay), Charlize Eilerd, Marione Fourie and Marzaan Loots (all 100m-hurdles); Zeney van der Walt, Wenda Nel and Taylon Bieldt (all 400m-hurdles and 4x400m-relay); Yvonne Robson (high jump).
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