Can lightning strike in the same place twice? On Sunday, when Wenda Nel will compete in the heats of the 400-hurdles at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, she will shed light on this question. The final will be on Wednesday.
In May, when she competed in an IAAF World Challenge in Beijing, Nel won the 400-hurdles in a personal best time of 54.37s. In her excitement after the race, she repeatedly used the word ‘wow’ to vent her feelings. Her winning time is still the 10th fastest for the season.
Throughout the season the Tuks/HPC athlete impressed with her consistency. On no less than eight occasions she clocked times that are listed among the 20 fastest on the IAAF-rankings. Judging by results since the 2005 Championships in Helsinki until the 2013 Championships in Moscow, and providing that nothing unforeseen happens, Nel ought to qualify for the final.
At the last three Championships the slowest qualifying times were 54.86s (2009 in Berlin), 55.06 (2011 in Daegu) and 54.94 (2013 in Moscow). However, once in the final Nel will have her work cut out. Her best time of 54.37s would have been good enough for a fourth place in the 2005 and 2013 finals, but in 2007 she would have finished sixth, in the 2009 finals seventh and in the 2011 finals eighth.
But Nel is not inclined to allow statistics to get the better of her: ‘I am happy with the way my season has played out so far. The fact that I was able to compete in more Diamond League meetings certainly boosted my confidence. It proved to me that I am good enough to compete against the world’s best. I am in a good place at the moment. All I need to do is work on my technique to make sure that I don’t make any mistakes again. The problem with running the 400-hurdles is that on one day you will run the near perfect race but the next time you make some silly mistake which costs you a few hundreds of a second. I guess this is what the 400-hurdles game is all about.’
Orazio Cremona (shot put) is the other Tuks/HPC athlete who will be in action on Sunday. In spite of not having had the best of seasons so far, he is quietly confident that he will be able to qualify for the final. Cremona says: ‘My biggest frustration was that I was side-lined by a groin injury during the past few weeks, which meant that I was not really able to throw. Luckily the experts at the HPC helped me to sort out the problem.’
Cremona’s best distance last season was 20.63m. He ties with Burger Lambrechts as South Africa’s second-best shot put athlete ever. Only Janus Roberts (21.97m) was able to throw a better distance. Cremona says: ‘It is important that I should not become obsessed and try to go for the really big throws too soon. I have learned over the years that in shot put it is all about being patient with what you are doing. In the past I tended to force matters by trying to go too far too soon and that just jaded me. I really want to do well at Worlds. I hope to at least make the top-five.’
Cremona considers his seventh place in the finals of the World Indoor Championships, as well as winning the African title and achieving fourth place at the Commonwealth Games as his highlights for 2014.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott