South African hurdler Wenda Nel is back in training after recovering from Covid-19. Monday was the first time in four months that she got to test herself against the stopwatch.
‘My heart rate is still a bit high. Not super high but higher than it used to be. I think the best would be if I take things slightly easy for a week or so to enable to give my lungs time to wake up. I can afford to do so as I don’t have any real plans to race this season,’ said the 32-year-old, who celebrated her birthday on Tuesday.
‘I was lucky in that I did not experience any of the severe Covid-19 symptoms. I only had a continuous headache. Still, I cannot ignore the fact that I did test positive and that the virus was in my system.’
Nel has been a force in South African athletics since 2009. The Tuks athlete won her first senior national title in 2010, and since went on to win another seven national titles in the 400m-hurdles. Some of her career highlights were setting a personal best time of 54.37s in 2015 in Beijing, finishing fifth the same year at the world championships and winning a bronze medal during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Twelve years is a long time. Still, Nel has no plans to put her spikes away, anyway at least not in the next 12 months.
‘Over the last few months, I have often been asked about my plans. I guess people are trying to find out whether I still plan to race. The answer is yes. The idea is to compete one more time at the Olympic Games. Whether next year’s Tokyo Games will happen remains to be seen, especially in these uncertain times.
‘If the Games get cancelled I still plan to race. I still want to run that near-perfect race. If I do there is a real chance that I will achieve one of my last remaining goals. I have a specific time in mind.’
The Tuks athlete admits that at times during the national lockdown, there were times when she was slightly frustrated.
‘In the past, it was easy to say we grateful for this or that. It is, however, only when something really gets stopped or taken away that you realise what it meant to you. I have now more appreciation for everything that goes with being an athlete. I can honestly say I am more motivated than before.’
No matter what might happen in the next 12 months, one thing is sure Nel has no regrets.
‘From a personal perspective, I am in a good place. Few athletes can say they have achieved nearly everything they set out to do. I am privileged to be part of a small group of South African athletes to have competed at an Olympic Games. I have competed in a World Championships 400m-hurdles final; won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games as well as titles at the African and South African Championships. I am also lucky to have opportunities outside of athletics.’
Photo: Reg Caldercott