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Beneke relishing a second shot at hurdles glory

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Track and field ace PC Beneke is first to realise that it does not often too happen that an athlete is given a second shot to live out his dream.
He’s determined, therefore, that this is the season in which he will exert himself to gun for fast times in the 400-metre hurdles.
Next week will be the first time in nearly a year that he will settle down in his blocks to wait for the starter’s pistol that will send him off on his challenge against the stopwatch.
But Beneke, an hpc athlete who was the second quickest hurdles athlete in the 2013 season, could be forgiven if the sound made by the pistol sends cold shivers down his spine.
That’s because on 27 April last year Beneke was involved in a shooting incident on a farm at Sudwala, just outside of Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, in which he was fortunate not to loose his left foot.
A shotgun went off accidentally, just centimetres in front of him and, of the 34 pellets discharged, 19 ricocheted into his ankle. He was extremely lucky that the pellets didn’t penetrate any of ligaments or ankle bones. The doctors who treated him were not sure at first whether or not he would be able to run competitively again.
He still has vivid memories of the shooting accident.
‘My friend’s dad was explaining to us how the shotgun, a brand new weapon, works when I suddenly heard a shot. The room was totally filled with smoke and my ears were ringing. When I looked down I just saw blood on my feet but, strangely enough, I did not feel any pain at that stage.
‘The first thing that crossed my mind was that it might be the end of my athletics career.. here was just so much blood pouring from my ankle.
‘Luckily Dr JB Prins from the Little Company of Mary managed to remove most of the pellets.  I think there might still be about three or four left. I can feel them sometimes when I massage my ankle but I have no pain.’
‘I will be honest by saying that the shooting incident changed my whole outlook on life. Now that I am aware that it is only by the grace of God that I’m still able to run, I’m not scared to go full out to live my dreams. I see it as a sign that I was meant to achieve something as an athlete. Don’t ask me what because I don’t know. All I know is that I feel strong during my training sessions, so hopefully 2015 will be the year when great things will happen for me.’
Beneke is looking to open his season next week by running either the 200m or 400m at a league meeting. ‘My plan at the moment is to run my first 400m hurdles race in March. I must admit that I’m slightly nervous to start racing again because I don’t know what to expect. It is one thing to train but quite something else to race.’
The rivalry between a fully fit Beneke and Cornel Fredericks (2014 Commonwealth champion) could be one of the highlights of the season. The two of them have been rivals since they were both Under-12 age category.
Beneke beat Fredericks at that year’s South African Youth Championships but Fredericks won at the next year’s South African Junior Championships.
‘The 400 hurdles could also make for exciting racing because LJ van Zyl and Wouter le Roux will also certainly be in contention each time they race,’ Beneke predicted.


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