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Hurdler Nel hooks up with Danish track ace for Stellenbosch training
- Updated: January 13, 2016
Any track athlete hoping to qualify for an Olympic final in Rio later this year, will find the challenge during the next few months is to find some way to get just that little bit faster for such an important year in the sports calendar.
This is the reason why Wenda Nel (Tuks/HPC), South Africa’s foremost women’s 400-metre hurdler, is currently training with Denmark’s Sara Petersen in Stellenbosch. See the two in action above, with Nel in the blue crop-top.
In the 400m hurdles final at last year’s 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China, Petersen finished fourth in a time of 54.20sec, with Nel seventh in 54.94. But more importantly, the Danish athlete ran her best time of 53.99 at the Diamond League Meeting in Paris last year.
Petersen also became the first Danish athlete to win a Diamond League race last year when she won in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Nel improved on her best time when she won in 54.37sec at a World Challenge Meeting in Beijing. However, for her to have a realistic chance to medal in Rio she needs to improve her best time to something closer to 54sec dead or even faster.
It should be no surprise, therefore, that she jumped at the opportunity to train with Petersen for a week. ‘Training together has so far been an interesting experience for both of us. The way Sara trains is quite different from the way I am used to and naturally the opposite is also true.
‘Through our respective coaches we have come to a kind of compromise on how we were going to train,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve definitely learned something from Sara and her coach which will stand me in good stead this season and hopefully she can say the same,’ said the Nike athlete.
‘In Pretoria I train mostly with male athletes, therefore it is nice to train with somebody who runs more or less the same times that I do for a change. We try to push each other to the limit on the track.’
Nel’s first race for the season will be at the national championships in Stellenbosch. If she wins the final it will be her sixth SA 400-hurdles title.
She’s not quite sure yet where and when she will be racing internationally, but there’s a good chance that she will be in action at the first Diamond League Meeting in Doha on 6 May.
‘If everything goes according to plan I hope to compete in about eight to 10 races before the Olympic Games in Rio.’
Asked what she plans to do to improve on her best time, Nel said that she will definitely try to improve her start. ‘In most races I’m a bit slow out of the starting blocks. I think I can also work towards improving my speed over the last two hurdles. My biggest challenge will be to try to change my stride pattern between the hurdles to 15 steps. On average that is the stride pattern of most of the international athletes. Because I’m shorter I tend to take more steps.’
But every step she takes now will be just that little bit closer to Rio in August….