Steenkamp's success in the 100 m hurdles could be one of the most inspiring stories in the history of SA athletics

Posted on March 01, 2017


Rikenette Steenkamp (TuksAthletics) might just become the second South African female athlete to finish the 100 m hurdles in under 13 seconds at the Varsity Athletics Meeting in Potchefstroom on Friday. If she does, it would be one of the most impressive comebacks in South African athletics, proving that any setback can be overcome if one has the will to do so.

Steenkamp does not want to commit to running a definite time. She knows she can run a sub-13-second race; it is just a question of where and when. It might be Friday or a bit later in the year. Being unable to race over the last two years has taught her that life is a journey.

'I just want to enjoy the journey and make the most of all the experiences I have along the way,' said Steenkamp, who was in matric at Hoërskool Menlopark when she won the South African Junior and Senior titles in the 100 m hurdles in 2010.

In Marrakech in 2014, she finished in 13,16 s. Only five South African athletes have managed to run faster times. Corien Botha, who set a new South African record in 1998 running in 12,98 s, is thus far the only local athlete to have finished in under 13 seconds.

Three weeks ago Steenkamp proved that she is in good form when she finished in 13,14 s at a meeting at the University of Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the wind from behind was too strong for her time to be officially recognised. What is remarkable about her performance is the fact that it was only her second race after a two-year absence from competitive racing. Last Saturday she improved her best time in the 100 metres by 0,4 seconds, running a time of 11,46 s.

2015 was a frustrating year for Steenkamp. She was in constant pain and barely able to train. In 2016 she found out that she had an extra bone in her ankle and the only solution was to have the bone surgically removed.

Steenkamp was on bed rest for six weeks after the surgery, whereupon she had to relearn how to walk properly. Swimming was the first proper exercise she was allowed to do and only in September 2016 was she allowed to start doing athletics again. She admits there were times when she wondered whether she would ever be able to race again.

'The one thing that kept me going was the feeling that I was born to run. There is also the matter of unfinished business on the track. I have certain definite goals I still want to achieve.'

She credits her recent fast times to her coach, Hennie Kriel (Tuks/HPC).

'He is an amazing coach who knows how to get athletes to believe in their abilities and he is able to motivate us to set high goals. He does not believe in mediocrity. Being part of a training group that includes the likes of Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai (both Olympian sprinters) is also inspiring. As a group, we tend to push each other to work harder during every training session.'

Steenkamp is also busy with her master's degree. The title of her thesis is 'The need for leadership and role models in South African women's sport'.

'I honestly believe that I have an obligation to leave a legacy for younger athletes. When I started out, I sorely missed having a role model to inspire me. Once I have finished my career as a competitive athlete, I want to get involved in helping younger athletes, especially female athletes. I want them to understand that they should not get despondent if they do not succeed right away. They should stick it out; hard work and dedication do pay off,' said Steenkamp.



- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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