#TuksAthletics: Van Zyl faster each time he races

Posted on June 15, 2016

South African Champion, LJ van Zyl (Tuks/hpc) is a man on a mission. A quick glance at his results in the 400-m hurdles for the season will confirm this.

Since the South African Championships in Stellenbosch, Van Zyl has set a faster time in each successive race he has run. He won the national title in a time of 49,34 s, in Shanghai his time was 49,13 s and in Ostrava he won in 48,67 s, which is his fastest time in five years. Weather permitting; he will probably continue on this trajectory in the 400-hurdles when he lines up tomorrow night (16 June) to compete in the Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm.

One of the reasons Van Zyl is able to consistently improve on his times this season is the fact that he is so focussed. In previous years he competed in international races as often as he could, but this year he is like a 'sniper', choosing his races very carefully.

'I see this season as being all about setting myself small goals. Every time I achieve a goal, I set a new one. My main goal for the season is to qualify for the Olympic final in Rio,' said Van Zyl.

If everything goes according to plan, Van Zyl's 10th race of the season will be the semi-finals at the Games.

As far as tomorrow night is concerned, it is worthy of note that Van Zyl will go into the race with the fastest time for the season. Michael Tinsley (USA) has the second fastest (48,74 s) and Kerron Clement (USA) has the third fastest (48,87 s). Last year's world champion, Nicholas Bett (Kenya), has only run a best time of 49,31 s this season.

Being a seasoned campaigner, Van Zyl is not overly concerned about what other athletes do. He describes the 400-m hurdles as the great leveller in athletics. 'There is never a time when you can relax and say that you have truly mastered running the 400-m hurdles. I firmly believe that any athlete who thinks they have will be humbled the next time they race. You have to put in the long, hard hours and, even then, there are no guarantees. That is why I do not want to make any predictions about what might happen, except to say it will be an interesting race. My training has been going well,' he said.

Last night (14 June) at the European Permit Meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, Cornel Fredericks and Wenda Nel (both Tuks/hpc) both finished third in their respective 400-m hurdles contests under tough conditions. Competing in the men's B race, Fredericks crossed the line in 50,15 s. European Championships silver medallist Magi Rasmus of Estonia secured victory in 49,95 s, followed by Welsh former world champion Dai Greene (50,02 s).

Nel clocked 56,07 s. Fellow World Championships finalist Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark claimed victory in 55,20 s, holding off a challenge from European champion Eilidh Doyle of Scotland who grabbed second place in 55,57 s.

Nel was very disappointed with her performance. 'It is my slowest time in quite a while. My problems started when I lost pace rhythm going over the seventh hurdle. I struggled to correct my mistake in the cold weather. But in athletics you have to learn to take the good with the bad. I am looking forward to racing at the African Championships in Durban where, hopefully, it will be warmer.'

Orazio Cremona earned second place in the Men's shot put with a best attempt of 18,68 m, while Brazilian Darlan Romani sealed a convincing victory with a 20,36 m heave.


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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