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Pretorius piling on the points in early-season competition

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Young Friedriech Pretorius is a man with no small aspirations. And if he has his way this season, he may end up being only the second South African athlete to amass more than 8000 points in a decathlon event.
Pretorius has competed in two league meetings in Pretoria during the past two weeks. He competed in nine of the 10 decathlon events and described his results as ‘promising’. The only event in which he has not yet competed is the 1500m.
‘Roughly estimated my results were, on average, about 70 points more than my score of 7639 at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I know that I’m capable of improving, especially in the running events (400 and 110metre hurdles) where there are still small glitches that need sorting out. In the throwing events there are also one or two things that need to be improved,’ the High Performance Centre (hpc) sponsored athlete said.
The events in which Pretorius has performed substantially better so far this season than at the Commonwealth Games are long jump, high jump, shot put and pole vault.
‘At the Games my time for the 100m was 11.29sec and this season I started with 11.10s. In the high jump I jumped 1.95m compared to the 1.90m I jumped in Glasgow, an improvement of five centimetres. Every extra centimetre in the high jump equates to nine points. I’ve also improved my distance in the shot put by nearly one metre. In Glasgow it was 11.86m and now I have already managed a throw of 12.80m. In the pole vault it was 4.60m and now it is 4.65m.
My discus performance is so far 30cm shorter than it was last year and I am currently about 20 points worse off in the 400m.’
Pretorius fully realises that competing in various individual events and competing in a decathlon event are two totally different matters.
‘That is why I’m optimistic about having a good season. On Friday night, at the meeting at the University of Pretoria, I competed in four events in about two and half hours. This meant that I was rushing around a lot and did not really have time to become focused. For example, there was no time for me to warm up before the discus or javelin events.
‘The Gauteng North Championships will be the first time that I’ll compete in a decathlon event this season.’
Pretorius hopes that Willem Coertzen, the South African record holder and the only SA athlete able to go past 8 000 points in the decathlon, will also compete at the national champs.
Watching Coertzen competing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, was the final clincher for Pretorius to become a decathlete. ‘I was totally mesmerised by Willem’s gutsy performance. Willem is definitely my role model and he has given me many valuable pointers on how to improve as a decathlete.
‘If he is also at the SA Championships, I’m certain that he will push me to perform a little bit better.’
Apart from hoping to amass 8000 points in the decathlon, Pretorius also wants to put in a good performance at the World Student Games that will be held in South Korea in July. If everything goes according to plan he hopes to qualify for the World Championships in Beijing as well.
‘I think I will be able to achieve the 8075 point qualification.’
Last year Pretorius did not only finish seventh overall at the Commonwealth Games, but also won the 1500m, the event considered by many decathletes to be a run of pure torture.
Pretorius finished with a total of 7639 points. This meant that he had broken another South African record, his third for 2014. His previous best time, using senior implements, was 7572 points.

Picture, courtesy of Reg Caldecott


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