It is said that bad things usually happen in threes. If this is true, it should be Fredriech Pretorius’s turn to put together a great score in the decathlon when he competes at the World University Games (3-14 July) in Gwangju, South Korea. The season started out well for the 20-year-old.
At the Gauteng-North Championships he improved his personal best score to 7 763 points which made him the second best South African decathlete of all time. Only the African and South African record holder (8398 points), Willem Coertzen, has scored more points than Pretorius. But since then Pretorius has been dogged by bad luck in the pole vault.
In Mauritius he was snookered by what he jokingly referred to as ‘jumping with a pool noodle’. The Tuks/HPC athlete says: ‘Every time I planted the pole in the box I ended up falling because the pole simply could not get me airborne.’ To add to his frustrations he also suffered a foot injury during the pole vault and had to withdraw from the 1 500m event.
This turned out to be the beginning of his hat-trick of bad luck. At the South African Student Championships in Stellenbosch he struggled with his run-up and could not achieve any height in the pole vault. But the worst was still to come.
At the South African Open Championships in Potchefstroom his pole broke just as he planted it to launch himself into the air. A part of the broken pole slapped into his body and bruised his ribs. Pretorius admits that he was quite despondent after his third setback in the pole vault.
Pretorius says: ‘I decided to take a complete break from pole vaulting for a few weeks to clear my mind. I only started to jump again three weeks ago. Touch wood, things have been going OK so far.’ The good news is that Pretorius has at long last been able to buy his own brand new set of poles, but he is not sure when he will receive it. He says: ‘I guess my poles are still somewhere at an airport, so I will have to make do with what I have at the moment. Some of the poles I am currently training with have been in use for about 30 years.’
Pretorius does not want to make any bold predictions before the World University Games. He says: ‘Quite honestly, my first goal will be to score about 7 800 points, but I know I am capable of doing better than that. Much will depend on what happens during the pole vault. During the past few weeks I have worked hard on improving my speed and explosive power. In other words, I was working towards achieving maximum power in the shortest space of time.’ According to Pretorius, he was able to improve his performance in nine of the ten disciplines so far this season: ‘It is only in the 1 500 metres that I have not yet been able to set a new personal best, but then again I have not really tried to do so because of the bad luck I have had with the pole vault. It just didn’t seem worthwhile to go flat-out in the 1 500 metres after I have already “bombed” in the pole vault. However, I know I have a fast 1 500 metres in my legs and I am just waiting for the right moment to run it.’
At last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Pretorius ran the fastest 1 500 metres time in the decathlon. Pretorius said all his personal bests add up to a total of 8 241 points, namely 10.99s – 100m; 7.33m – long jump; 13.21m – shot put; 2.01m – high jump; 48.86s – 400m; 14.36s – 110-hurdles; 42.80m – discus; 4.70m – pole vault; 58.81m – javelin; 4:28:33 – 1500m. He says: ‘All I need is for “lady luck” to be on my side for a change to enable me to put together ten perfect performances. If this should happen, I will be able to break through to 8 000 points.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott