Chris Harmse has been dominating hammer throw competitions in South Africa for the last two decades, winning one national title after another. Last year his title count stood at an amazing 21.
They say that all good things eventually come to an end and so must Harmse’s reign as South Africa’s hammer throw supremo. This might happen at this year’s national championships in Potchefstroom.
For the first time in many years, Harmse will line up against two other athletes who are also capable of throwing distances further than 70 metres.
Tshepang Makhethe (NWUPukke) threw 70.26 metres last year and only three weeks ago Renaldo Frechou (TuksAthletics) threw a personal best distance of 70.21 metres.
Harmse boasts with a best distance of 80.33m and at the age of 43 he is still able to throw distances of 73 metres and further with great ease.
Frechou recently came back from the United States where he has been studying for the last three years at the South Alabama University. The 25-year-old has been appointed as hammer throw coach at TuksAthletics and he is also going to compete.
Ironically, about six years ago when Frechou competed against Harmse, he told the hammer throwing legend to watch out. ‘It was my last competition as a junior athlete. I had just thrown over 60 metres when I told Chris that I was going to beat him one day. He took it quite well. He even complimented me on my performance and said he was looking forward to competing against me as a senior.’
Frechou is quite confident he’ll be capable of throwing a few more big throws this season. His confidence sprouts from the fact that Germany’s Kathrin Klaas helped him to sort out one small niggle in his technique while she was training at TuksAthletics.
Klaas finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and boasts a best distance of 76.05 metres.
Frechou is going to compete in a league meeting taking place at Tuks on Saturday, 25 February 2017. ‘I never like to make bold predictions about distances. However, when I train I can feel that everything in my technique is in sync that is why I am keen to compete.’
There is a notion in South African athletics that one of the biggest mistakes any young talented athlete can make is to take up a bursary offer from a university in the United States, as they seem to disappear from the athletics scene without getting to fulfil their true potential.
Frechou said going to the United States was the best decision he’d made.
‘It was while I was at the South Alabama University that I learned to find a balance between studying and training.
‘To get the opportunity to compete at their university meetings was a great experience. I got to learn how to handle pressure, because every competition is quite intense, even more than it would be at a South African Championships.
‘American coaches believe that if you are able to get a top eight finish regularly at the big meetings, you have the potential to become an Olympian.
‘I now understand why the Americans are so dominant in world athletics,’ said Frechou, who won five of the meetings that he competed in last year.
He also placed second in two meetings.
Picture of Frechou courtesy of Reg Caldecott