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Pretorius brothers in arms at World Student Games

Pretorious

A few years ago Constant and Fredriech Pretorius had quite a rivalry on the athletics track to prove who was fastest and who could jump furthest.

But all that’s changed, and from next week when the two Tuks athletes represent South Africa at the World Student Games in Taipei, the brothers will be one another’s biggest supporters. Constant will be competing in the 400-metre hurdles and Fredriech in the decathlon.

If nothing unforeseen happens, Constant ought to qualify for the final. According to the statistics, he’s certainly South Africa’s most improved 400m hurdler. At the end of last year, his best time was 50.00 seconds. Now it’s 49.28s. Commonwealth champion Cornel Fredericks (49.27) is the only local athlete to have run a faster time so far this season.

Constant is confident of setting at least another personal best in Taipei. The goal he set himself for this season is to see how close he can get to dipping under 49 seconds, which is the benchmark in international 400m hurdling.

While he was still a junior athlete, he had all the makings to become a true champion, but after finishing school, he faded away somewhat when he went to study and train in the United States.

There’s an ever-growing list of talented South African athletes who never got to fulfil their true potential after deciding to accept bursaries to study in the United States. But Constant says his decision to go to New Orleans was certainly not all bad.

‘The coach who worked with me was good. He helped me improve my speed and running technique. That led to me setting personal bests in the 200m and 400m. I guess I’m to blame that my performances in the 400m hurdles stagnated. The problem was I didn’t trust my coach’s advice when it came to hurdling. Hurdling is such a technical event, which means that if you start doubting your coach you are doomed to fail.’

Fredriech made South African athletics history at the Gauteng North Championships when he won the decathlon and scored 8002 points. He’s only the second South African decathlete to go past 8000 points. Willem Coertzen, who is the current South African record holder, was the first.

Fredriech makes no secret that he wants to score 8000 points again to prove to himself that the first time was no fluke. ‘My training has been going well. More importantly is that apart from the usual niggles I am injury-free, touch wood. So I’m hoping to be competitive in Taipei.’

What excites Fredriech is that he was able to set personal bests in eight of the 10 events so far this season. ‘The 400m and the 1500m are the only two events in which I still need to improve. I’m confident that I can do so. It took me a while, but I now realise to improve on 8002 points doesn’t mean that I have got to set new bests in every event all the time. The secret to being a good decathlete is consistency.’

As to who won when he and Constant challenged each other as youngsters, Fredriech admitted that his older brother was fastest over 100 metres, but that he was the better jumper.

Pictures of the Pretorius brothers (Fredriech left) courtesy of Reg Caldecott


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