Event: Women’s Long Distances Date of birth: 1985/04/09 Personal bests: 800m (2:03.36),...
VAN ZYL, NEL OFF TO WINNING START
One-lap hurdlers LJ van Zyl and Wenda Nel revealed they were eager to target faster times, but both athletes were satisfied after getting the 2015 season off to a solid start at the weekend.
Attempting to find top gear this year, having struggling to reach his best form since 2011, Van Zyl won the flat 400m in 46.23 seconds and took third place in the 100m sprint in 10.75 at a league meeting at Tuks on Friday night.
“Naturally I would have loved to have run a slightly faster time in the 400m, but I guess I cannot complain because it was my first race of the season,” he said.
Having competed as an elite international athlete for the last 13 years, since he won the world junior title in Kingston in 2002, the day before his 17th birthday, Van Zyl said he was in no rush to hit his straps this early in the campaign, with the SA Senior Championships scheduled to be held in Stellenbosch in April.
One of the country’s most accomplished athletes over the last decade, the former Commonwealth champion and World Championships bronze medallist has not been able to run faster than 48.96 seconds in his specialist event for the last three seasons — well outside his national record of 47.66, which he clocked on two separate occasions in 2011.
“The most important thing at the moment is that I enjoy my running,” he said.
“When you enjoy yourself, the good results will follow. I just have to be patient.”
Nel, meanwhile, stunned everyone including herself by getting out the blocks in impressive form at Tuks.
A teammate of Van Zyl’s at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, Nel won the women’s 400m race in 52.83 — just 0.31 outside her career record — and secured victory in her 100m heat in 11.80.
“I really did not expect to run such a fast (400m) time so early in the season, but I guess I have underestimated myself a little bit,” she said.
The African champion, who enjoyed a breakthrough season over the barriers in 2014, believed she was ready to raise the bar in the fledgling stages of the domestic campaign.
“Perhaps I should be bold and set myself slightly higher goals when racing so early in the season,” Nel said.
“There is no reason why I should not be able to consistently run fast times throughout the season.
“I had a look at some of the results at the (international) indoor meetings and the times run by the athletes surprised me.
“It is a given that the very same athletes will still be competitive in August at the World Championships in Beijing.”
Nel planned to run a 200m race at a one-hour meeting at Tuks next week, in search of a personal best, while Van Zyl confirmed he would also stick to flat races and work on his speed in the build-up to the Gauteng North Championships next month.