Catch me if you can… that seems to be the challenge that Commonwealth Games athlete Constant Pretorius (Tuks) will set his rivals in the 400-metre hurdles event at Friday night’s Varsity Athletics Meeting at Tuks.
It’s no idle threat. Pretorius was the top male athlete at the first Varsity meeting, winning the 400m hurdles in 50.16sec. He has since improved his season’s best time to 49.72, and is confident of running even faster times. His personal best time is 49.28.
Pretorius’ new-found confidence stems from his performance at the weekend’s South African Championships at Tukkies. He didn’t win, but he was the one who ‘ripped’ the race wide open by immediately setting a cracking pace. His rivals only caught up with him with three hurdles to go.
He’s firmly of the belief that the event was one of the most exciting 400m hurdles races in a long time. Six athletes dipped under 49 seconds. At last year’s national championships only three athletes did so.
‘National championships was the first time I decided just to run and enjoy myself without worrying about my pace and rhythm. It felt great. I was not tired afterwards. I’m planning to do the same at the Varsity meeting. I might experiment a bit going over the last two hurdles. I believe I have the ability to dip under 49 seconds. I just need to prove it to myself,’ said the Tuks hurdler.
Pretorius is of the opinion that once he or any of his rivals clock a sub-49 it will be like the proverbial dam wall breaking with them then consistently doing so.
‘It’s exciting to be part of the new generation of 400m hurdles athletes. We’re talented enough to keep South Africa’s proud tradition in the event going. All that needs to happen is one breakthrough race for us to do so.’
One of the most disconcerting statistics at the moment in South African men’s athletics is that the last time a South African 400m hurdler dipped under 49 seconds in a local race was in 2014. The last time it happened on the international circuit was in 2016.
Picture of Pretorius courtesy of Reg Caldecott