By Mark Etheridge
Willem Coertzen headed back to London last week on top of the world after posting an Olympic qualifying mark for the Olympics in his home from home later this year.
And in his gruelling decathlon code, he actually is on top of the world, the 8224 points he garnered at the national track and field championships in Port Elizabeth sees him lead the IAAF 2012 list, 177 points ahead of American Isaac Murphy who achieved his mark in Austin, Texas late last month.
Originally from Nigel on Gauteng’s East Rand London-based Coertzen has had a quiet build-up to the national championships after going off the boil for a long period. His winning points tally in Port Elizabeth was an improvement of 129 points on the 8095 he scored at Ratingen, Germany last year.
Explaining his resurgence, 29-year-old Coertzen told Road to London 2012: “I don’t know what it is but I just feel a bit more switched on this year, probably because its Olympic year, which only comes round every four years, hey! Last year it felt like I just stumbled through the year, lost my competitive edge a bit I think after being injured the whole year before.
“Training this year so far has been going good, nothing special but just consistent leading up to Port Elizabeth, I had about two weeks warm weather training in Potchefstroom before heading out to PE and there everything started coming together a bit. But I’ve been working my backside off since we started winter training.”
The pole vault has been Coertzen’s biggest downfall in terms of losing points. In fact he withdrew from the decathlon at last year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea after no-heighting. In the previous World Championships in Berlin (2009) he ended 14th.
“The pole was my problem all year last year, but this year I have done a bit less of my better events and focused more on pole vault ÔÇô┬ástarted training on bigger and longer poles and its going great so far. I still feel there’s a lot more I can do in pole vault, the poles I took to PE were too small at the end of the day and I could maybe have done more. So I’m going to get on to the bigger ones and hopefully go higher still.”
For the record Coertzen’s two-day triumph was broken down like this: 100 metres (11.18sec), long jump (7.47m), shot put (13.85m), high jump (2.04m), 400m (49.39sec) on day one and then 110m (14.34), discus (43.47), pole vault (4.63m), javelin (66.95m) and 1500m (4:23.75) on the final day.
The good news for Coertzen and Team South Africa is that he achieved his personal best overall score while some way from his best shape. “The rest of the events were just solid, nothing special, I lost lots of points in my 100m and 400m cause I am just not sharp yet. I need more racing, the same with hurdles, I still ran good but the more I am going to race the better it’s going to get so I’m feeling really positive for the rest of the year.
“I’m going to Austria at the end of May for the Gotzis meeting, the big decathlon of the year so I’m feeling good for it, I had four personal bests overall so my second day was solid. Last year 8200 points felt like a mountain and now I feel like I don’t know what the fuss was about but I have worked really hard this year as I always do, on my own with no help except from my coach and family. But sometimes I think that spurs me on even more.
And Coertzen can feel the lure of London. “Overall I am really exited as the Olympics has always been my ultimate goal in athletics so I am really chuffed that I have qualified and in my first competition as well, it makes life so much less stressful. Now I can take my time and get ready.”