LJ Van Zyl (Tuks/HPC) won the 400-hurdles at the Gauteng-North Championships in 50.09 seconds. He was the first to admit that his time was nothing to get excited about but he was satisfied for now. There is still a long season ahead and it is important for him to peak when it really matters.
Van Zyl says: ‘It was a hard championship. To race the 400-hurdles twice within hours is a tough ask. Normally during a championship you only race once a day. I won my heat in 50.03s in near perfect conditions, but the final was run in pouring rain which certainly did not make things easy for us. That is why I am happy with my result.’ Le Roux Hamman (Tuks) was second in 50.49s and Bernard Pretorius (Tuks) third in 51.31s. Van Zyl, who turns 31 this year, can rightfully claim to be the ‘elder statesman’ of South African 400-hurdles.
He says: ‘It is nearly 15 years since I ran my first sub 49-seconds race and I am not getting any younger. Nowadays I race against athletes who are ten years younger than I, which are quite exciting because they help to keep me on my ‘toes’. I am very glad to see that there are youngsters who are ready to continue South Africa’s proud tradition in the 400-hurdles.’ The Tuks/HPC athlete describes the 400-hurdles as the great leveller in athletics: ‘There is never a time when you can relax and say that you have truly mastered running the 400-hurdles. I will put money on it that any athlete who thinks so will be humbled the next time he races. You have to keep on putting in the long hard hours and even then there are no guarantees.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott