Tuks "doctors" on the verge of qualifying for the Paris Olympics

Posted on June 19, 2024

When Charne Swart lines up to race the 800 metres, the one sure thing is that she could be faster than the last time she ran.

The past weekend, during a league meeting at Pilditch, the Tuks medical student won the 800 metres in a time of 2:00.34. It is the fourth time she has set a new personal best this season. The question now is not whether the South African champion can run a sub-two-minute race anymore but when she will do so.

It could happen from the weekend at the African Championships in Cameroon. If she does dip under two minutes, she could also qualify for the Paris Olympic Games. The qualifying standard is 1:59.30. She needs to be 0.64s faster than on Saturday.

Judging by her performances this season, it is doable. Actually, Swart would be a definite contender if there were a prize for the most improved South African athlete. Over the last four years, she has been getting faster and faster. In 2021, she improved by more than 2 seconds, in 2022 by five seconds, in 2023 by more than three seconds, and so far in 2024 again by more than three seconds.

As things stand, the Tuks student-athlete is one of the six fastest South African female athletes in the 800 metres. Since 1983, only Caster Semenya, Prudence Sekgodiso, Zelda Pretorius, Ilze Wicksell, and Erannéé van Zyl have been faster. 

Swart was undoubtedly in top form on Saturday; she also ran a massive personal best in the 400 metres, clocking 53.40 seconds. Her previous best was 56.45 seconds.

The 22-year-old realises the biggest mistake she could make is to be obsessed about a specific time.

"My aim is undoubtedly to run a sub-2-second race. But it will happen when it happens. The secret is an even split over the two laps. My perfect race would be to run 58 seconds and then 59 seconds."

As to be continually faster, Swart said, "I have matured over the last year as a runner. I can handle any race that comes my way, knowing what to do when."

Swart is not the only Tuks medical student who could qualify for the Paris Games over the weekend. The South African champion, Edmund du Plessis, is racing in Spain on Friday and Poland on Sunday. He is in good form. The past Sunday in Sweden, he finished second, running 1:46.04. He won last month in Germany.

Du Plessis set his best time during the South African Championships in Pietermaritzburg, winning in 1:44.92. It is a mere 0.22s off from the qualifying standard. The Tuks student can also qualify through the World Athletics rankings. On the Road to Paris rankings, he is 50th. If he can improve by two positions, he will qualify.

Edmund du Plessis

According to him, the big turnabout in his athletics career came about in March; during a league meeting at Pilditch, he clocked a time of 1:45.49. At the time, it was a massive personal best.

"It was the confidence booster I needed. I proved to myself during the South African Championships that it was no fluke by running 1:45.58 in the heats and 1:44.92 in the final. If you can run 1:45 or faster internationally, you will always be one of the better athletes in the race."

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