By Mark Etheridge
Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, goes the saying but it sure did for Wenda Theron at Pilditch Stadium this weekend.
Theron has been hunting the Olympic A qualifying standard of 55.40sec for the 2012 Olympic Games in London for some time now.
She’s patiently been going about upping her game over the last year, making the semi-finals of the 400-metre hurdles at last year’s IAAF world track and field championships in Daegu, South Korea and setting her personal best (at the time) of 56.13 in the heats.
Then she ended with silver at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique late last year.
This year saw her running another personal best when she won the 400m hurdles at the Yellow Pages national championships┬á in Port Elizabeth. She clocked 55.79sec in Port Elizabeth but that qualifying time continued to elude her.
Until this weekend that is. Not once but twice did she dip inside 55.40 mark. In the heats on Friday she ran 55.37 and the in the final the following day lopped 0.01sec off the previous day’s mark for good measure.
It was a relieved 24-year-old who spoke to Road to London 2012 after her double delight. “The past weekend was amazing! I’m so blessed and feel very much grateful for finally achieving the first qualifier. Since I was aware of what the Olympic Games are all about, it has been my biggest athletics dream to compete there. I’ve trained hard to try and achieve this goal so I must say, after Friday I’m a bit relieved. All the praise goes to God for blessing me with this talent. I want to run for Him and just do the best I can every time.”
And she’s certainly cleared a psychological hurdle now by beating the qualifying standard and is now looking further down the track. “This is definitely not the end, but only the beginning.┬á I’m excited for what lies ahead. This is not only a personal goal, but it will be awesome to represent my country at the Olympic Games.”
Not that she was ever too concerned about missing the boat (well make it plane in these modern times) to London. “I was never worried. I know it is a big goal for me to go to the Olympics but I’ve always had peace in me that it will happen whenever the time is right ÔÇô I really enjoy my sport and yes, every athlete wants to improve, but I’ve already improved by running sub-56 at national champs so I was very pleased with that. ”
And that fact that she managed to qualify twice in two days. ” Yes that was a bit of a surprise. I really wanted to qualify at the SA Open and decided to go hard in the heats to do it then. After achieving that goal, I just wanted to go into the final and give whatever was left in me. I didn’t expect to qualify again but I’m really grateful for that. During last week’s training session I felt great and my times looked good. Hennie [Kotze, her coach] told me that I was ready to qualify, he even told me I could do it both days.”
Now that the first qualifying hurdle has been jumped she must do it once again at an international meeting to fulfill all the criteria to make Team SA. “Now that I’ve run under 55.40 I want to go under 55 ÔÇô┬ábut with all my other goals, I believe that will come at the right time. I do think if I can run sub-55 I might get into a final at Olympics or next year’s World Champs so that is my goal.”
So where will her overseas qualifying bid come. “At the moment my first planned race is Rabat on 27 May, but I’m still waiting for confirmation. There’s also different options which include races in France, Germany, Prague, Africa etc. and I do hope that one of them gives me the second qualifier!”
Given first her patience and then her Pilditch form, one wouldn’t bank on her not coming back from Europe and ready to pack for London.”