- Thousands of women prepare for running Challenge
- SA’s team named to do Fed Cup duty in Lithuania
- Hawtrey’s passing a big loss for SA cycling
- Nienaber back with a bang, targets another Nomads title
- Seboko best of the bunch in uphill battle in Uganda
- Davids doubles up in Summer Series
- Elkington eclipses opposition at Loch Ness
- Hurdler Steenkamp winding up for a big one
- Olympic champion’s Epic win, big-hearted women’s triumph
- SA runners in search of elusive medals in Kampala
Van Zyl blitzes to five-year best and Conrad nails a four-year best!
- Updated: May 21, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
It’s high fives for two-time Olympian LJ van Zyl after the 400-metre hurdler hit a five year spike in the Czech Republic on Friday night.
Competing at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, the ‘meteor from Molteno’ in the Eastern Cape blasted to a winning time of 48.67 seconds.
That’s his fastest since 2011 when he ran the current South African mark of 47.66.
Van Zyl’s win came as he comfortably beat Johnny Dutch of the US into second spot (49.01).
‘Yes, I’m very happy with tonight,’ Van Zyl told Road to Rio 2016 as his victory sunk in. ‘Fastest time in five years and I must say the Czech Republic is very good to me.
‘That’s because 10 years ago I came second with a 48.99sec finish and then five years ago that 47.66 here.
‘I’m really feeling that Irma Reyneke [coach] and my plan is starting to come together. She’s definitely getting something right with me, that’s for sure. Oh she’s very, very sharp.’
As for coach Reyneke, always keen to deflect attention back to her athletes.
‘When he told me this week that he’s getting old I told him, “No, man, you’re still so young” she laughed.
‘He’s going to come back home now and then we’ll hold thumbs for Oslo Diamond Leage and then it’s African Championships.
‘My advice to him was simple. I told him to go and do what he must do and just get across that finish line.’
She then went on to reveal that there’d been something of a breakthrough as the two went through their paces at training this week.
‘Early this week we did a very interesting analysis of his race and I think it’s a breakthrough to getting a better rhythm between the fourth and sixth hurdles.
’These things take time and I only realised almost a week after the analysis.
‘Now lets hope Wenda (Nel) makes us proud again tomorrow’
The only other South African in action at the Golden Spike was the versatile little distance runner Nolene Conrad (pictured right).
Earlier this week she set an SA best time in the seldom run 2000m steeplechase in Rehlingen, Germany.
Friday saw her switching back to the 3000m steeplechase and there was more pay dirt in the form of a four-year personal best of 9:15.56 as she placed sixth. Her time was more than five seconds quicker than her previous best, proof that the Endurocad athlete is making great strides again.
‘Well, my European trip is going well thus far,’ Conrad told Road to Rio 2016 in gloriously understated fashion.
‘I’m happy with my performances because it shows I’m on track for a good steeple event. It really wasn’t easy to get to where I am now.’
That’s because when she got back from world half-marathon championships she had something of an injury setback.
‘ It was very frustrating as I had a neural niggle in my hamstring. I had to work so hard on my speed just to get it back. But I didn’t loose hope, I knew I wanted to peak in Europe and I’m just so grateful, it all came together.’
Hope and grit is something that Conrad possesses in abundance and she wouldn’t be too upset that she left South Africa on Friday, 13 May!
‘At the end of the steeple event I felt I could have gone about 4 seconds faster as I got comfortable in the last 200m and didn’t push to the line. ‘
Moving on to Ostrava she hooked up with Van Zyl for some South African company.
‘My 3000m flat had a very good field so I knew I was going to use this race to record a fast time. Running in Ostrava was amazing, not only was there amazing crowd support to cheer you on, all the superstars of athletics was there: Bolt, Ashton Eaton, Jeremy Warrner ect , such an awesome experience.’
But the little fighter never allowed herself to think that the occasion was too big for her. ‘My faith in God has strengthened And I am ready for anything that comes my way, cause he will not forsake me.
‘So I’m up for the challenge and my next race, the big one is on 28 May in Oordegem, Belgium where I’ll do the 3000m steeple. This is where I ran my personal best time 9:54 and I’m going for that Olympic qualifier.’