It’s been some time coming but LJ van Zyl finally went clear of Olympic silver medallist Llewellyn Herbert’s national 400-metre hurdles record in Pretoria on Friday night.
Twenty-five-year-old Van Zyl blitzed to a 47.66sec victory at the second Yellow Pages Series meeting of the season in Pretoria, comprehensively eclipsing the old mark of 47.81 that Herbert had run at the Sydney Olympics back in 2000, writes Mark Etheridge.
Van Zyl beat runner-up Cornel Fredericks by close on two seconds as Fredericks finished in 49.61.
Last week Van Zyl had told Road to London 2012 that he was feeling confident after running his fastest times yet for the 300 and 600m time trial distances in training.
But running this quick in the opening weeks of the season will in all likelihood mean a revision of their programme with it being an important year with World Championships in South Korea later in September.
“I don’t know how we will approach the rest of the season. This time, however, would have been good enough to earn me a medal at the previous Olympic Games in Beijing,” Van Zyl earlier told Sapa.
Van Zyl dominated the meeting but World junior champion Luvo Manyonga had a solid win in the long jump, the Stellenbosch youngster leaping 8.05 metres and accounting for veteran Olympic silver medallist James Beckford of Jamaica.
And world 800m champion Caster Semenya failed to impress over 1500m. Last week she had won the 800m in Potchefstroom in 2:04 but on Friday night she could only place fourth as Lebogang Phalula won in 4:09:08. In her defence Semenya is experiencing continuous trouble with her lower back and it remains to be seen if she can ever match the heady heights of her 2009 achievements on the track.
Second to Semenya in Potchefstroom, Mapaseka Makhanya was too good for the field on this occasion and glided to a 2:05 victory. “I’m aiming to go to Europe in May where I hope to run 4:05 for the 1500m,’ said the bubbly 25-year-old after her race.
Meanwhile our fastest 110m hurdler in years, Lehann Fourie ran his first race on local soil for five years and was immediately backon the victor’s podium.
‘I’m not sure what my final time was but it was about a 13.95,’┬á Fourie told Road to London 2012. ‘I won by quite a margin so I think I could have gone quicker with some competition. The track was wet but I still had a pretty good race. It was great driving to a meeting from my own house and without being┬á thousands of miles away. And it was also good to have family and friends in the stands. I was impressed with the quality of the meeting and didn’t expect it to run so smoothly. I’m so happy I made the decision to compete and now that the first race of the season is done I know what to work on to get closer to my goals. And LJ’s performance was amazing and definitely an inspiration to me.’
The last time Fourie ran in SA was also in Pretoria back in 2006. ‘It was Junior SA’s and I ran a junior record of 13.74 on the lower hurdles.’