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Cronje’s great comeback

By Mark Etheridge.

One of the more impressive comebacks in SA track and field saw Johan Cronje take another 1500 metre title at the Yellow Pages national championships in Port Elizabeth this weekend.

And what better present a day after this 30th birthday? Well maybe a qualification time for the Olympic Games in London later this year. But that will hopefully come as Cronje, a four-time national 1500m champion, hasn’t exactly had the luxury of being able to fine-tune his preparations for London.

Injuries have taken a terrible toll on his career since 2009 when the Bloemfontein athlete ran his personal best 1500m time of 3min 33.63 in Monaco.

Leading up to the championships and at one stage Cronje was looking at only running the 800m as he hadn’t had enough time to get in the right amount of base work. But then he switched tack and opted to go for the 1500m because he didn’t think he had the necessary leg speed.

Well, he certainly had enough leg speed on Saturday as he beat United States based Peter van der Westhuizen by just 0.20sec to take gold.

What made that all the more amazing is that Cronje stood tallest on the podium after just six weeks back into running. “The knee kept me out for 10 months last year and then the back (we later found that it was a hip injury) for another two months. So SA’s was my sixth week back runningÔǪ this week I start week seven,” Cronje told Road to London 2012 on Monday.

“I didn’t expect I could even go 3:39, based on the training I did. But I told myself beforehand that I’ll just sit and if I’m there in the last 100 metres, I’ll give it everything and it worked out that way and I actually wasn’t took fatigued at all afterwards.

“So the good thing is that I now realise that I’m closer to that 3:35 or 1:45 than I expected.” Those times are the 3:35 (1500m) and 1:45.60 (800m) A standard times required to qualify for this year’s Olympics.

“The plan now is do some more training and see if I can reach those times by the end of may or beginning of June.” He still has to run SASSU championships at the end of the month but those are likely to be more training than pure racing as part of his London preparations!


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