LJ upbeat for 2012 | SASCOC - SASCOC

LJ upbeat for 2012

By Mark Etheridge

Olympic Games medal contender LJ van Zyl is not finding the pressure to perform in London later this year any more of a hurdle.

Tthe 26-year-old, fastest man in the world over the 400-metre hurdles event last year, actually embraces the pressure. Last year Van Zyl twice ran times of 47.66sec and in fact laid claim to the fastest four times run during the year. He then went on to win a bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu,South Korea with a time of 48.80sec.

“Pressure is a good thing,” Van Zyl told Road to London 2012 on Friday. “To me it means the public believe in me and support me to do well. And I think I do my best under pressure and an athlete has simply got to learn how to cope. Irvette [Van Blerk, long distance athlete and fianc├®e] help each other during difficult times and help each other focus. Even though our training programmes are different the basics stay the same so we spend a lot of time together.”

But the sporting mad South African public shouldn’t expect to see a whole lot of Van Zyl in the early part of the year. “I’m definitely going to be competing less this time of the year but this is just to make sure that I’m in top form at the Games. I’ll definitely do national championships though and then I also want to run a fast flat 400m somewhere in South Africa.

“Right now I’m still on an off-season programme with my coach [Hennie Kotze], mostly endurance stuff and no hurdling for now. I must first get in top shape and then start with speed and hurdling. The better my base the longer the form will hold.”

And while he’s not thinking in terms of target times just yet, he’s quietly confident of this year being a great one. “What I can definitely say is the I’m training better now than at the same stage before the last Games in Beijing four years ago when I got fifth spot.

And Van Zyl was at pains to point out more of the reason behind his upbeat mood ahead of these Olympics. “The South African public seem a lot more aware of the London Olympics and I must say SASCOC’s OPEX (Operation Excellence) programme helps me a lot. All I need do is train and rest and the programme takes heaps of financial pressure off us.

“The planning seems to be a lot better than previous years and ASA (Athletics South Africa) and SASCOC [SA’s Olympic governing body] are truly going to great trouble to help us prepare properly. An example is that Hennie is now a full-time coach and getting paid to help me prepare for London. Unlike previous years where we really struggled.”

A qualified teacher, Van Zyl is not quite ready to start teaching. “I will want to get my honours in B.Ed before then.”

So right now things are looking good for Van Zyl. He got engaged to Van Blerk, herself a prospective 2012 Olympian in the marathon and the two plan to get married in Bloemfontein at the end of September, seven weeks after the Games.

And his favourite leisure activity of growing his beloved bonsmara cattle herd back in his Karoo hometown of Molteno continues at pace. He spent the money he won for winning the Yellow Page Series jackpot last year on some more cattle.

“And guess what, I nearly doubled my moneyÔǪ all my cows had calves last month.”