#TuksWrestling: Arno van Zijl is prepared to go all out to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics

Posted on February 27, 2023

The Tuks wrestler, Arno van Zijl, is prepared to go to "war" if that is what it will take to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in France. 

The 21-year-old knows he is in for a tough challenge. It is only the second year that he will compete against senior wrestlers. To the 2020 African freestyle under-74kg junior champion, that is a totally different "ball game".  

"Things were simpler when I competed as a junior and cadet wrestler. I could win most of my fights by brute strength. This approach won't work when competing against senior, more experienced wrestlers."

Van Zijl used a war metaphor to explain what he meant.

"When you are a junior, only one thing matters. That is to win the battle. You don't really think about what you do on the mats. You just do. 

"Senior wrestling is about winning the 'war'. That takes planning. It is crucial to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. Then you got to strategise. For example, if I knew beforehand my opponent was a fitness fanatic, my first goal would be to try and sap his energy. 

"I pride myself on being a master of various wrestling techniques. Experience taught me there is always one technique with which you can outwit an opponent. The key to this is to find out which it will be. So you must be wide awake as you step onto the mats. There will be that moment you will immediately know what to do to win. If you miss that opportunity, you could lose the fight."

One challenge Van Zijl faces daily is finding enough hours to do what needs to be done. During the day, he works in the electricity industry, helping clients with alternative ways to keep the lights on. It is often long, hard hours. 

"I would have loved to be full-time wrestling. The best option would have been to train in the USA, as some South African wrestlers do. The most significant benefit is that you can hone your skills against various training partners. 

"The reality, however, is that there is no money to be earned as an amateur wrestler. So I have found myself kinda in a 'Catch-22 situation'. Do I fully commit to trying to become a World or Olympic champion and put on hold building a career?

"To me, it is too risky. By next year, if I have not qualified for the Paris Olympic Games, I will have lost valuable time work-wise. So the plan is to go about the hard way to try and qualify for the Games. I need to medal at the African Champs. I back myself to win gold. I should be eligible to represent South Africa at the World Championships if I do. Then I guess all will boil down to me doing something special at Worlds.”

Last year, Van Zijl won bronze in the men’s senior under-74kg category at the African Championships in Morocco. It led to him being selected to represent South Africa at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in England. 

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2023. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

To contact the University during the COVID-19 lockdown, please send an email to [email protected]

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences