Wenda Nel Impresses Against World Champion

Wenda Nel proved at the Ostrava Golden Spike Meeting last night that she is not only good enough to compete against the world’s best 400-hurdlers, but good enough to beat them as well. If she did not trip over the last hurdle and lost her rhythm and balance for a brief moment, she might well have beaten the current world champion, Zuzana Hejnova (Czech Republic). The South African was leading up to the last hurdle.

To Nel’s credit, she kept her cool and managed to stay upright to finish third in a time of 55.47 seconds Hejnova’s won in 55.13s with another Czech, Denisa Rosolova, second in 55.45s.  As usual the Tuks/HPC athlete is modest about her performance.  She say:  ‘It was an interesting experience.  Naturally going into the race as the athlete who holds the world leading time at the moment (54.37s) made me slightly nervous, especially considering the calibre of athletes I was up against.  As far as the race is concerned, I won’t lie, I was really tired when we got to the second-last hurdle.  I think the long travel from Beijing to Europe was probably part of the reason why I was not able to execute my technique to perfection when I started to tire, but I am not looking for excuses.   The truth of the matter is that I made a mistake going over the last hurdle.  This threw me slightly off balance and caused me to lose momentum.  Still, I think I fought back quite well to finish third.  It should have been interesting to see what would have happened if I did not knock the last hurdle, but mistakes like this are part and parcel of the ‘game. I don’t think the time I ran was bad and I am satisfied.’

According to Nel the weather conditions during the race was quite a shock to her system: ‘Just before I went onto the track it was as if my body went into a slight shock. It was really cold and rainy and I am more of a sunshine athlete.’ Nel’s victory at the IAAF World Challenge Meeting in Beijing, as well as her performance in Ostrava last night, proved that she has improved tremendously as an athlete during the last year. For the first time she is really able to hold her own against the world’s best.

When asked about this, Nel was slightly embarrassed, saying: ‘I think I am now allowed to say that perhaps I am good enough to deserve the opportunity to compete against the world’s best hurdlers. I am looking forward to the rest of the season. I am confident that I am able to improve even more. If I can run a ‘smooth’ race I am sure I will again clock a time of 54 seconds.’ Nel’s good performances over the last eight days have not gone unnoticed. She has received invites to compete in the Diamond League Meetings in Paris (4 July) and London (24 July).

Her next meeting will be on 8 June in Prague.

Photo credit: Reg Caldecott