#TuksAthletics: South African women’s record holder, Rikenette Steenkamp, calls it a day on her 100m-hurdling career

Posted on February 03, 2023

One of South Africa’s athletics legends, Rikenette Steenkamp, has decided to put her spikes away for good. 

The Tuks athlete has undoubtedly been the "boss lady" of 100m-hurdles racing since 2010 in South Africa. In 47 local races, she has been beaten only twice in the short hurdles. It was in 2010 and 2013. According to the World Athletics statistics, since 2014, Steenkamp has notched up 29 consecutive victories racing in South Africa.

Steenkamp is the current South African women’s 100m-hurdles record-holder (12.81s) and the indoor 60m-hurdles record-holder (8.17s). She won four South African titles and one African title. Another definite highlight was winning gold at the World Cup Meeting in London in 2018. 

One can't help but wonder what more Steenkamp would have achieved if she was not injured at crucial times of her career. When reading her World Athletics profile, her absence from the track for extended times is hard to miss. In 2015, she seemingly only competed in one 4x100m-relay race. In 2016 and 2022, she did not race at all. 

Still, the Tuks athlete has no regrets. She has so many memories that would stand the test of time. 2010 was without her breakthrough year. Steenkamp won the South African senior, junior (under-20) and student 100m-hurdles titles. What made this outstanding was the fact that she was a matriculant at Hoërskool Menlopark.

According to Steenkamp, she had not entirely realized what she had achieved. 

"At 17, I was young and naive. I wanted to run and make finals. Most importantly, I ran to enjoy myself. I was stunned that I had won the senior national title. That victory was the start of my journey. 

"The day I set the SA record is one I will never forget. Since I won my first South African title, I have dreamed of running a sub 13 seconds race. I got to do so in 2017."

That year, within four days, Steenkamp ran two sub-13-second races. On 28 June in Ostrava, she ran 12.99s; then, on 2 July in Switzerland, she clocked 12.92s breaking. A year later, at the same venue, she set a new national record running 12.81s. 

Steenkamp was undoubtedly at the peak of her career in 2018, dipping under 13 seconds no less than five times. 

According to the Tuks athlete, the day she won gold at the World Cup in London was the closest she came to running the perfect race. Her winning time was 12.88s.

"It was amazing. Everything clicked. It felt like I was 'flowing' over the hurdles."

Reflecting on her athletics career, she admits she might have done things differently. 

"I definitely would have made a more concerted effort to train more cleverly. There were times when I pushed myself too hard. Often that was what led to me getting injured. But then again, my coach and I did our best with the information we had."

When asked if she had any advice for young athletes, Steenkamp said what she would say might sound like a cliche. 

"But I wish someone had said it to me as a young athlete. The one thing every young athlete should realize is that no sports career lasts forever. So enjoy every moment. I had run my best times when I enjoyed myself.

"Young athletes should realize they need time to achieve the big goals. So enjoy the small victories. Don't ever compare yourself or your results to that of other athletes. Each athlete's journey is unique. Know that it is a privilege to represent South Africa.

"Please speak to your coaches when you are injured or if something bothers you. It is important to have an open relationship with your coach."

Steenkamp promises that she will always in some way be involved in sports. At the moment, she gets joy from coaching primary school athletes. The one thing she truly wants to do is to assist athletes mentally. 

But for now, she is most excited about the new chapter starting in March when she married Jan-Chris Avenant.

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

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