LJ van Zyl took his first stem to immortality when he won the 400m hurdles in a time of 48.24 when the prestigious IAAF Golden League kicked off on Sunday, June 1, with one of the biggest meetings on the European Athletics Circuit, the ISTAF DKB Golden League Meeting. The 22 year old Tukkies student is now in the hunt to win the Golden League Jackpot of $1 000 000. How does it work?
To win the $1 Million Jackpot, athletes must win their event (a list of applicable jackpot events is shown below) at ALL SIX meetings of the ÅF Golden League.
However, should NO athlete manage to attain six wins and claim the $1 Million, then anyone with five victories will share half the original prize - $500,000. This secondary prize is only on offer should nobody win his or her event at all six meetings.
All winners must compete at the IAAF World Athletics Final to be eligible for their share of the Jackpot.
The 2008 ÅF Golden League Jackpot event disciplines are:
Men: 100m, 400m, 1500m, 400m Hurdles, Long Jump, Javelin Throw
Women: 200m, 800m, 100m Hurdles, High Jump.
(Information courtesy of the IAAF)
So Van Zyl will be looking to win all six his 400mh races over the next 3 months. Not only will he be attempting to race in one of the most competitive disciplines in athletics, but there is also a “minor” event such as the Olympic Games thrown in between and Van Zyl is hungry this year to make up for the debacle of the 2007 World Championships where a tactical misjudgement saw him not go beyond the first round. So it’s a $1 000 000 Jackpot and Olympic Gold that LJ has set his sights on.
LJ is well aware that if he wants win Olympic Gold and the Golden League Jackpot his best time of 48.05 sec is not going to be good enough. His main protagonists, America’s Bershawn Jackson (2005 World Champion), Kerron Clemont (2007 World Champion and already under 48sec this year), Felix Sanchez (defending Champion), Periklís Iakovákis, Danny McFarlane and James Carter have all beaten Van Zyl before, but the 22 year old feels in good shape.
Coach Nico Van Heerden is also upbeat about his young protegy’s chances. “He is in awesome shape and his head…. it is so strong. He is also very hungry. After starting the year with a problem with his liver (he was secreting to much protein), having to switch coaches (his previous coach Hennie Kotze accepted a position in Saudi Arabia) and nor performing due to his liver problem LJ was very down on himself. But now, he is back and hungry, all problems are solved and I’m looking forward to traveling with him”
LJ and Van Heerden left on Wednesday to Germany. After Berlin it is off to Oslo for the next Golden League. Athletics South Africa are also looking to put together a team to compete in a 4x400m relay event on the 14th of June in Belgium. The duo then come back home for some hard training. At this stage it is not clear if Van Heerden will travel with LJ when he leaves again for Europe on the 8 July.
Both athlete and coach believe the High Performance Centre (hpc) at the University of Pretoia is the best place for their preparations as all necessary facilities are on hand and with the backing of the hpc, LJ gets the best possible support. “Doctors, physio, gym, dietician, you name it, its all here. Everything at your doorstep” says LJ, referring to the sponsorship he receives from the University Pretoria and the hpc. “You cannot ask for any more.”