Fredriech Pretorius (20 years old) might get close to breaking 8 000 points in the decathlon in Mauritius this coming weekend. Pretorius is not one to make bold predictions but he has good reason to be confident. He certainly proved that he is in good form when he improved his personal best score of 7 639 points to 7 763 points at his first competition in a decathlon event this season, the Athletics Gauteng North Championships in Pretoria.
This made him the second best decathlete of all time in South African athletics. Only the African and South African record holder (8 343 points), Willem Coertzen, has scored more points than Pretorius, a High Performance Centre (HPC) athlete. According to Pretorius he was on track at the provincial championships to get close to 8000 points, but unfortunately things started to go wrong for him during the high jump.
The wet conditions after a thunderstorm also made matters difficult during the pole vault. Pretorius says: ‘I jumped 7 centimetres lower in the high jump than I normally do, which meant that I missed out on about 63 points. In the pole vault I only jumped 4.40m where I normally clear the bar at a height of 4.60m. This meant that I missed out on another 80 or so points. After my disappointing performance in the pole vault, I was quite demotivated and unable to run the 1 500m flat out, losing another 60 points.’ But it was not all doom and gloom for Pretorius at the provincial championships.
He managed to score personal bests in five of the ten events. A definite highlight for him was breaking 11 seconds in the 100m. He says: ‘I have worked for seven and a half years to run a time faster than 11 seconds and at long last I managed to clock a time of 10.99s. I know it is only 0.01s faster than 11 seconds, but the important thing is that I broke through a psychological barrier. Having done it once, I am confident that it will start happening more often.’ Pretorius improved his best distance in the shot put to 13.16m, in the discus to 42.86m and in the long jump to 7.33m.
At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year Pretorius ran the second fastest time in the 110-hurdles, clocking 14.68s. At the provincial championships his time was 14.39s, which was an improvement of 0.29s. Pretorius is confident that he can improve even further on his shot put and discus performances.
Pretorius says: ‘I had better throws in both events, but unfortunately I was not able to stay in the circle. It is just a matter of time before I manage to improve on my javelin distance. During training sessions I have had some really great throws and I just have to repeat them in competitions. Actually, it all boils down to big match temperament.’ Irma Reyneke (coach) emphasized that she does not want Pretorius to become obsessed with breaking 8 000 points. Reyneke says: ‘Fredriech is still young and I want him to enjoy himself. If he manages to do that, it will be only a matter of time before he puts together an amazing score in the decathlon. His main goal for the season is to try to win a medal at the World Student Championships. If he should qualify for the World Championships in Beijing it will be an absolute bonus.’
Pretorius will not compete in the decathlon at the South African Championships. Reyneke says: ‘Hezekiel Sepeng from Athletics South Africa suggested that Fredriech should rather compete in Mauritius this weekend. He is the defending champion and will face tough competition. At the senior championships in Stellenbosch he will compete only in the pole vault, long jump and the 110-hurdles. During the following week he will compete in the decathlon at the South African University Championships.’ One of Pretorius’s main frustrations is that he cannot afford to buy his own pole vault poles.
He needs three poles to compete, which will cost about R50 000. He simply does not have that kind of money and had to borrow Coertzen’s poles at the Commonwealth Games.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott