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Van Zyl in action

By Mark Etheridge

Reigning Commonwealth Games 400-metre hurdles champion LJ Van Zyl takes another step in the defence of his title in Durban on Friday evening.

Winner in Melbourne four years ago with a time of 48.05 seconds, he’s very aware that the games are a long way down the line and as such, has no expectations of instant gratitude at the second Yellow Pages athletics event of the season.

He missed the opening meeting of the series in Port Elizabeth last week and the Durban outing will be much like a cricket batsman’s “sighter”.

“I’ll honestly be happy with anything below 50 seconds,” said the 24-year-old in Durban ahead of the meeting.
“I’ve just been down to the track for a stretch and a warm-up and it’s very windy with some light rain. So I don’t really expect a fast time.

“It looks like the wind will be in our faces for the last 100m, so here’s hoping it will stop or at least turn around.”

Van Zyl, who failed to qualify for the final of the 400m hurdles at last year’s World Athletics Championships in Berlin, says its a long season ahead.

“The Commonwealth Games in India are only in October so its still a very long season. So I just want take each race as it comes and do it step for step.”

Van Zyl is one of a host of stars in action tonight. One of them will be world champion 3,000m steeplechase finalist, Ruben Ramolefi, who broke Whaddon Niewoudt’s South African record on two occasions last year, first running 8min 16.04sec at the national championships in Stellenbosch and then went on to improve that with a fine run of 8:11.63 in Monaco on the European circuit.

Like Van Zyl, Mr Reliable of SA athletics, Khotso Mokoena, also makes his 2010 Yellow Pages debut on Friday.

The current Olympic and World Champion long jump silver medallist has been recovering from a leg injury and isn’t expecting fireworks. “I should still be looking to go over 8m but for me the most important thing is to make sure that my technique is correct because we’re only three weeks away form the world indoor championships in Qatar.”

World 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi is another star on display but he’ll be running the 1,500m on this occasion.

On the women’s front the in-form Rene Kalmer will be lining up for the 1,500m. She’s been in record-breaking form on the indoor circuit this year and will bear watching on Friday.

And also worth keeping an eye on will be Elizna Naude, also a Commonwealth champion. She goes into the discus event with a best of 61.59m under her belt this year.

Friday is the final day for qualifying for Indoor World Championships and apart from Mokoena, Mulaudzi and Kalmer just three other athletes have qualified in Janice Josephs, Juan van Deventer and Pieter van Westhuizen.