Former South African 800m record holder, national champion and 1996 Olympian Marius van Heerden has died after contracting Covid-19. He was only 46.
Van Heerden reportedly became ill with the virus a week ago and passed away in a Cape Town hospital on Friday. He is survived by his wife, Petra, and two sons, Tiaan and Hugo.
Van Heerden set the South African 800m record at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town 1996, running a time of 1min 44.57sec. Later that year he represented South Africa at the Atlanta Olympics, but was unable to progress out of the heats after posting a time of 1:47:46.
The current South African 800m record of 1:42:69 was set in 1999 by Hezekiel Sepeng.
“Before the race I was very calm and my target was to run 1:44.5,” Van Heerden said in 1996 when he broke a record that had stood for 25 years. “I was a bit behind at the bell and I had to work very hard on the last lap to stay with the pace. I just went for it and in the last five metres I was watching the clock and I lost my rhythm a little. ”
The old mark that was set in 1971 by Dicky Bromberg and equalled two years later by Marcello Fiascanaro was 1:44.7.
At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Van Heerden finished third in his heat in 1:47.46 and was eliminated as only the first two finishers in the race qualified for the next round. Sepeng went on to claim the 800m silver medal in Atlanta.