TuksAthletics: Tough challenge awaits Nel in Doha

Posted on May 05, 2016

South African 400 m hurdles champion, Wenda Nel (Tuks/hpc), will be in for a tough challenge when she settles into her starting blocks for the first Diamond League meeting in Doha on Friday, 6 May.

Five of the athletes who competed in last year's World Championships final in Beijing will be taking part. The finalists include the two-time world champion, Zuzana Hejnova (Czech Republic) and as Cassandra Tate (USA), who placed third in Beijing. Six of the athletes competing in Doha have run times faster than Nel's personal best of 54,37 s, but rather than being discouraged, Nel looks forward to the challenge.

'It is the beginning of a new international season and Doha will give me a good indication of whether my preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio is on track. It is certainly going to be an interesting race.  For many of the athletes, it will be their first outing over the hurdles, while it will be my second 400 m hurdles race of the season,' said Nel, who placed seventh in the World Championships final and won her sixth South African title in Stellenbosch in April in a time of 54,82 s.

Nel is not prepared to make any predictions about the race: 'Naturally, I would like to run a good time and I can honestly say that, physically, I am ready for the challenge, but I have learned over the past few years that racing can be very unpredictable and therefore it is best not to become obsessed with times. I have a goal in mind that would make me happy if I achieve it on Friday,' said Nel.

'I was happy with my performance at the national championships. After analysing my race with my coach, Irma Reyneke, we realised that perhaps I started out a bit too slow over the first 200 metres. Going over the last two hurdles, I felt that I still had a lot left in my legs. We need to find a balance between starting too slow and fading towards the end.'

Nel's progress as an international 400 m hurdles athlete over the past seven years is impressive. In 2010, her best time was 56,96 s, which placed her 85th on the IAAF rankings of best performances of the year. Her best time of 54,37 s, which she achieved in 2015, meant that she was ranked tenth on the IAAF list for the year.

The Tuks/hpc athlete was able to run times faster than 55 seconds on no less than seven occasions.  Of the fourteen 400 m hurdles races in which she competed, she won five, finished second twice and third twice – certainly a good record.

The other South Africans who will be competing in Doha are Victor Hogan (discus throw), Dumisane Hlaselo (1 500 m), Antonio Alkana (110 m hurdles), Caster Semenya (800 m) and Sunette Viljoen (javelin throw).


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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