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Van Zyl and SA duo out to shine in Shanghai Diamond League
- Updated: May 11, 2016
The who’s who of men’s 400-metre hurdles will be competing in Shanghai in the second of the Diamond League Meetings, on Saturday.
All eight of the athletes have raced at least once in a final of the World Championships.
Nicholas Bett (Kenya) is the current world champion, Kerron Clement (USA) a former three-time world champion and Jackson Bershawn (USA) has won the world title on two occasions. Only two of the athletes have not yet won a medal at a world championships.
It is also interesting to note that six of the competing athletes have clocked best times faster than 48 seconds. In fact Yasmani Copello (Turkey), will be the slowest athlete in the race with a best time of 48.46 seconds. Often a time of 48.46s is good enough to win a race.
Multiple national champion South Africa’s LJ van Zyl (Tuks/HPC) is relishing the challenge. ‘I don’t want to make any predictions about what might or might not happen, but I know it will be an interesting race. My training has been going well the past few weeks and I can feel there is a good race in my legs.
‘Unfortunately there is no guarantee that Saturday will be the day for me,’ said Van Zyl who finished second in Shanghai two years ago.
An interesting little sub plot to the race is that Bett is coached by Hennie Kotzé. It was the same Kotzé who helped Van Zyl set a new South African record of 47.66 in 2011.
According to Van Zyl his performance at the South African Championships in Stellenbosch was just the confidence booster he needed to prove that his training for the Olympic Games in Rio is on track.
‘As luck would have it I contracted a stomach bug the night before I was supposed to race and I hardly slept at all. I will admit to being slightly worried before my heat because Cornel Fredericks was also racing.
‘We were really duelling it out over the 10 hurdles and, somewhat to my surprise, I prevailed. A few hours later Cornel and I were at it again in the final which I managed to win. What was especially reassuring for me was the fact that, in spite of being ill, I was able to improve my time of 50.10 in the heats to 49.30 within the space of five hours.’
Van Zyl will also be competing next Friday at the 55th Ostrava Golden Spike Meeting.
‘I have fond memories of Ostrava because that was where I equalled my South African record time of 47.66 in 2011. My time is still a meeting record there.’
Rynardt van Rensburg (800m) and Rushwahl Samaai (long jump) are the other two South African athletes who will be competing in Shanghai.
Van Rensburg, last year’s World Student Games bronze medallist, told Road to Rio 2016: ‘I’m very excited… my shape is coming on well and I believe I’m in the same shape as last year when i ran my 1:45.40 personal best in Slovenia. It’s my first DL so definitely want to enjoy the experience but would also like to run below 1:46.00.’
Picture of Van Zyl courtesy of Reg Caldecott