One of the biggest showdowns at the South African Athletics Championships since 2010 has been the battle for supremacy in the 400-hurdles between LJ Van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks. Fredericks has been victorious on four occasions and Van Zyl (Tuks/HPC) on two. However, at this year’s national championships in Stellenbosch, the two of them might not have it all their own way.
Listening to Lindsay Hanekom, the South African under-23 as well as SA Students 400-hurdles champion, talking about his aspirations it seems as if there could be a changing of the guard in the foreseeable future. Hanekom (Tuks/HPC) says: ‘I am not saying that I will beat them, but I am certainly going to do my best to do so. What counts in my favour is that I have nothing to lose. Both LJ and Cornel have titles and reputations to defend. For now I am just running to enjoy myself and that is a nice position to be in. Remember LJ and Cornel are not getting any younger.’
Fredericks predicted in January that the 22-year-old Hanekom is an athlete to watch in the 400-hurdles. He had no hesitation in describing Hanekom as a talented hurdler. The Tuks/HPC athlete has just reason to be slightly ‘cocky’. At a league meeting at Pilditch this past weekend he ran a time of 46.54s in the 400 metres and 21.57s in the 200 metres. It was Hanekom’s first races of the season and both times are personal bests. He will be in action again this Saturday. It has not yet been decided in which event he will compete, but it will not be the 400-hurdles.
The first time he will run the 400-hurdles again, will probably be at the Gauteng North Championships in March. It is interesting to note that Hanekom has managed to improve his time for the 400-hurdles by more than 10 seconds over the past four years. In his first ever 400-hurdles race he was timed at 63 seconds.
Last year his personal best was 50.0s. Nico Van Heerden, his coach, is confident that Hanekom is capable of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio. The qualifying A-standard is 49.40s. He says: ‘Lindsay’s injury woes are at long last something of the past and these past few weeks he was able to do quality work during his training sessions. What excites me as coach about Lindsay is his hunger to succeed.’ Hanekom sees Fredericks as his role model.
He says: ‘Cornel is one of the nicest athletes I have ever met. He never hesitates to give me pointers about what I should or should not do to become a better hurdler. What I really appreciate about him is his modesty in spite of all he has achieved. I strive to be like him. Hopefully I will also not allow success to go to my head if I should be able to win some big races internationally.’ Football is Hanekom’s other big passion. He is an ardent Liverpool supporter and was quite a good striker himself when he played some games for the ‘Young Rovers’ in Cape Town.
Hanekom says: ‘I honestly believe I could have made a name for myself as a soccer player. Perhaps I still can if I choose to do so, but I have chosen athletics. What I love about athletics is that it is an individual sport and, therefore, what you put in is what you get out.’
Photo credit: Tuks/Athletics