By Mark Etheridge
Despite it not being a great 2013 for South Africa’s well known Olympic athletics couple’ LJ and Irvette van Zyl, the two athletes are already focusing positively on next year’s pursuits.
Main focus for 400-metre hurdler LJ will be another podium finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
LJ, pictured right, failed to make it past the heats at this year’s World Championships in Moscow, as was the case at last year’s London Olympics. Irvette (ne├® Van Blerk) also had to drop out of the Olympic Marathon last year and this year had an operation to fix a troublesome knee.
But LJ still remains upbeat, focusing, for the while, on matters off the track.
‘It’s going pretty well with us Van Zyls in spite of us a disappointing year in terms of athletics,” he told Road to Rio 2016 from Pretoria. His herd of beloved bonsmara cattle at home in Molteno in the Eastern Cape are, as ever, close to his heart. ‘I have got a 97% success rate in calving this year which is pretty good in this dry season that we’ve gone through and I’ve had to give them a lot of attention.”
Studies are also keeping him busy. “In two weeks time I’m starting my honours exam and then I’ve been approved to do a Masters degree in Education (Management).”
Back to the track though and he hasn’t been idle. “I’ve started to train on the track again and my focus is obviously the Commonwealth Games because I want to be on the podium again, just as I was in Melbourne (2006) and New Delhi (2010).”
And he is not afraid to fiddle with the formula for success going forward. “I can’t do the same as I did in 2012 and 2013 because that clearly didn’t work. So I’m going to try a few new things, especially in the gym and as far as my explosive power is concerned. And lots of stuff that I did in 2010 and 2011 as long as I don’t overdo it. To train harder is not necessarily the answer.
“My first race will be in March, a month before SA Championships. I want to win SA’s againÔÇª it’s been a while now ÔÇô 2011! Oh and I’ll also do a good few flat 400m races to get my speed up and also to make sure of a place in the 4x400m relay team because I’m mad about the relay event.
As for marathon ace Irvette, right, she’s doing well with her rehabilitation work after the operation. “She’s busy swimming at Virgin Active as part of that rehabilitation process, and will start jogging slowly again from next Friday. She’ll probably only be able to start racing from next year again. Maybe we’ll race each other at the Hartenbos or Oudtshoorn street miles in December, just for the fun of it.”
Meanwhile LJ is busy doing his bit for charity as well. “I’m part of the Jumping Kids cycle tour, which races money for amputee kids. I’m really looking forward to that although I’m not that good on a bike. It’s 1300 kilometres in five days .. pretty hectic.”
The tour features 10 celebrities on its trip from Pretoria to Polokwane.
Next year the Van Zyls will be hoping all their athletic abilities will help them get the jump on their rivals on the international sports scene.