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Van Rooyen targets bigger and quicker things

Van Rooyen

After racing to a personal best over the 200 metres at the recent IPC Athletics World Championships in London, Stellenbosch University student Ruhan van Rooyen is already targeting the next step up.

Van Rooyen (22) of Bloubergstrand in the Western Cape, improved his personal best time in the T37 event to 24.88 seconds on the first occasion he was selected to represent South Africa.

He was one of a 22-strong team from South Africa, and it was the first time in his athletics career that he has broken the 25sec barrier. That personal best time of his saw him finish sixth in the final.

He says: ‘After the race it felt like I’d just won the gold medal. I’ve never been so happy in my life. I think doing it with Charl du Toit, who won gold, made it even more special. Being able to do it at a World Championship is amazing, because it’s the ultimate challenge to perform at your best at the biggest competition in the world.’

Although Van Rooyen and Du Toit do not train together, they support each other on all levels. Says Van Rooyen: ‘I felt really proud of what I did when Charl came over to show me my time on the scoreboard. I’m also so proud of him winning gold. He always supports everyone and told me before the race I can go sub 25. To prove that to myself was awesome.’

Van Rooyen trains with Heinrich Fortuin and some of the Maties athletes. ‘Our group is called “The Punishers”. Hopefully this achievement will enable me to form a proper team and really ascend to the top so I can challenge Charl for the gold.

‘I think it’s always been a mental barrier. In my opinion, 24 seconds is the real benchmark for competing internationally. It’s definitely not the best, as many athletes run sub-24, but if I can do 24, I have a good chance of making finals on a regular basis and to compete well, which is a good way to start.’

It was Van Rooyen’s dream to represent South Africa in sport, although not necessarily in athletics, and he’s also a very strong cyclist.

‘I believe performing at your best on the greatest stage shows your real character. Doing it with one of your best friends makes it even more amazing. It was the best experience of my life.

‘I had that “I’ve made it” feeling when I was in the stadium for the first time. For now I’m going to concentrate on getting my honours degree. The athletics season is over and 2018 is generally a quiet year in terms of major events for me. Hopefully I’ll be ready for the 2019 World Champs and who knows, make it all the way to the Paralympic Games. I’d like to thank everyone for their amazing support. I really appreciate it.’

Van Rooyen was born with cerebral palsy in his lower right foot and arm, and participates in both the 200m and 100m T37 senior events (T denotes track, while the number 37 denotes impairment that affects the control of arms, hands, legs and trunk without affecting his ability to stand).

Van Rooyen, ranked in second place in both the 200m and 100m in South Africa, recently also competed in two Para Athletics Grand Prix events in Notwill, Switzerland, and Paris, France, his first overseas events.

In Notwill he finished first in the 200m and third in the 100m, and in Paris he was third in the 200m and fourth in the 100m. Van Rooyen was named the 2013 Junior Athlete of the Year by the South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled [SASAPD).

His long-term dream is to compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Picture of Van Rooyen courtesy of Martin Potgieter/Bonzai Photography


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