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De Villiers turns from chasing runs to chasing records

De Villiers

By Reggie Hufkie

Last year he strutted his stuff for the school’s cricket team and now Robert de Villiers is on his way to the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships.

With his tall, lanky physique De Villiers may well be the next South African middle distance name on everyone’s lips.

The 17-year-old Potchefstroom Volkskool scholar will be in action in the boy’s 2000-metre event World Championships which kick off on 12 July  in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘I’m really excited to go and test myself against the Ethiopians and Kenyans and I don’t think altitude will be a problem because I’m based in Potch,’ said the reigning national U18 2000m steeplechase champion.

A really confident outlook from an athlete who only got involved in running last year: ‘I was a cricket player until Grade 9, but then I met coach Nollie [Meintjies] and from then on I just want to run,’ said the excited cricketer-turned-athlete.

Competing in the gruelling 2000m steeplechase event, he’ll face tough competition from the Kenyans and Ethiophians who usually run 10 to 15 seconds faster than his current personal best of 5min 48sec.

However, he has his mind set on the experience, exposure and meeting new people. ‘The thing I like about athletics is that it is shorter than cricket. You go out and run and do your best and just the feeling that you get from running is amazing.’

He now has to adapt to tougher training schedules set up by coach Meintjies who is renowned for delivering worldclass steeplechase athletes.

‘It’s been tough and I’ve been training hard, but if you drink enough water and eat the right food, your body can do amazing things,’ said De Villiers who has his eyes set on dipping under 5:40 against the best in the world in Nairobi.

The future of South African athletics looks bright with potential stars like De Villiers being identified.

Look out for the name – we might have the next Ruben Ramolefi [Olympic steeplechaser] in our midst anytime soon.

De Villiers will compete in the heats on Friday at 9am.

Hufkie is a Cape Town based freelance writer


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