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LJ equals SA mark

LJ van Zyl is smoking hot the South African 400-metre hurdles recordholder blitzing to yet another win on the European circuit on Tuesday night and equalling his national record.

Competing in the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Van Zyl flew to victory in 47.66sec, the same time as his record-breaking run in Tshwane earlier this year when he beat Llewellyn Herbert’s 11-year-old record, writes Mark Etheridge.

Van Zyl is a new machine compared to last year, when he his performance curve had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster. There were two crucial differences between his two runs of 47.66. Tuesday night’s was at sea level where its harder to perform in the quick events and also, he visibly eased up in the final stages.

He was already clear of the field after three barriers on Tuesday and things are looking extremely promising ahead of this year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea in August. The trick for him and coach Hennie Kotze is to wrap him in cotton wool till then. His next run will be in New York on 11 June, the adidas Grand Prix.

Van Zyl now lays claim to the world’s fastest times this season as well as all the four sub-48sec clockings. Runner-up in Ostrava was David Greene, the European champion coming home in 48.47. There was no place on the podium for two-time and defending world champion Kerron Clement. He faded to sixth in a poor 49.53sec.

There was more good news for South Africans in the women’s javelin where Sunette Viljoen managed a World Championships A-qualifying throw.

The reigning Commonwealth Games champion pegged the spear at 61.72 (A qualifying is 61m). That was good for third spot behind Maria Abakumova (65.81) and Barbora Spotakova (64.78). “I’m very happy to have qualified for World Champs,” Viljoen told Road to London 2012 from Ostrava. “Next step is Eugene, Oregon for the next Diamond League.

“I battled a bit with my run-up in Rome but am happy that I seem to have sorted that out. So I’m looking forward to my next two meetings before I come back to SA to prepare for the rest of the season.┬á I can only build on this good foundation.”

And in the men’s 110m hurdles Lehann Fourie continued his good form with a 13.69sec second place behind American Johnny Dutch (13.64) in the B-race. That was a bit off the 13.55 he ran in Hengelo on Sunday but the US-based runner will be happy with these two strong showings so early in the season.

Two South Africans were in action in the men’s 400m. Paralympic ace Oscar Pistorius, still seeking to qualify for the Olympics next year, took sixth in 46.19sec (B qualifying mark is 45.70) while Lebogang Moeng followed him home in 46.49sec.

Highlights of the meeting were Usain Bolt’s second 100m race of the season and his fellow Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, also in the 100m. Bolt duly won in 9.91, the same time he ran in his first outing in Rome last week but he still looks a bit rusty at this early stage.

Campbell-Brown blitzed to a 10.76 victory in the short sprint, to equally Evelyn Ashford as the eighth fastest women ever over the distance.


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