The forgotten man of South African hurdling, Lindsay Hanekom, caused a surprise on Saturday when he won the 400-metre hurdles final at the South African Championships at Tuks.
In 2016 when Hanekom (Tuks) ran 49.03 seconds to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio, it was thought that he was going to be a dominant force in local as well as international 400m hurdles racing.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, he ‘disappeared’. Last year he hardly raced, through no fault of his own, as he spent more time in the waiting room of doctors and physiotherapists than on the track.
Unfortunately in the long run that’s something that gets to work on an athlete’s mind.
But thanks to his coach, Nico van Heerden and the support from Tuks/HPC who refused to lose faith in his abilities Hanekom is back to his winning ways.
So it was no surprise that he was quite emotional after winning his first South African senior title. His winning time of 49.17 is the second best of his career.
‘It was always my dream to win a South African senior title. I owe so much to so many, especially those who never lost faith in my abilities. I guess I was slightly lucky as there was no pressure on me going into the race. “Oom” Nico’s advice was to focus on what I control emphasising that he would be happy no matter what the outcome of the race is as long as I have given it my all,’ said Hanekom.
The 400m hurdles final was a race of surprises as the world youth champion and world youth record holder, Sokwakhana Zazini (TuksSport High School), raced to a second place finish, improving on his personal best time by more than 0.50sec. His time in the final was 49.32. It was only his fifth race in senior athletics.
Last year’s national champion, Le Roux Hamman (Tuks), was third in 49.42.
Zazini is confident that he’s capable of running even faster times. When asked to what he ascribed his success Zazini made it clear that there is no secret to it. ‘I’m a firm believer that hard work beats talent on any given day.’
Hennie Kriel (Tuks/HPC coach) can vouch for this. He describes the youngster as one of the most dedicated athletes he coaches.
‘I don’t doubt that he has the makings of an international star. He has got the hunger and is a quick learner. To top it all, he has got big match temperament. For him, it is a case of when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
‘Some call it the X-factor. The challenge now is to make sure that “Socks” is appropriately managed and not being over-raced.’
Picture of Hanekom courtesy of Reg Caldecott