The South African 400-hurdles champion, Wenda Nel, so nearly doubled up for the World Championships by also qualifying in the 400m at the South African Open Championships in Potchefstroom. She won her 400-heat in a time of 52.09s which is just 0.09s slower than the A-standard qualification of 52.00s. Only 12 South African female athletes have managed to run a faster time than Nel’s 52.09s.
Nel says: ‘If only I had dipped I might have clocked a time of 51.99s. Instead I had a quick glance at the stopwatch just as I was crossing the finish line but I am not going to beat myself up about it as I have improved on my best time for the 400m by 0.31s. My previous best time was 52.40s.’ The Tuks/HPC-athlete is in for a tough challenge on Saturday as she will be competing in the 400-hurdles final at 11:45 and the 400m-final is a mere 35 minutes later. Nel is not too phased about having to run two finals in such a short space of time, saying: ‘My main focus is the 400-hurdles. I am really going to try and run a time faster than 55s. Whatever happens in the 400m will be OK with me. If there is anything left in my legs I will certainly give it a good go again. The reason why I am competing in both events is to condition my body to run heats, semi-final and final at the World Championships.’
A definite highlight for Nel last year was the way she managed to improve on her best 400-hurdles time. When she won the 400-hurdles at the South African championships (held at the LC De Villiers stadium of the University of Pretoria) in 54.92s, she caused quite a stir but that was only the beginning. In Huelva, Spain, she managed to win in 54.88s.
Then in Marrakech, Morocco, she won in the even faster time of 54.82s. Her best time so far this season is 55.20s. PC Beneke (Tuks/HPC) won his 400-hurdles heat in 50.66s.
Spare a thought for Fredriech Pretorius the South African decathlon champion for the third time in about five competitions he has been snookered in the pole vault. 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 bruising his ribs.
On Friday Pretorius valiantly still tried to compete in the long jump after his pole vault disappointment but it was to no avail. He has decided to withdraw from Saturday’s 110-hurdles race.