Olympian Van Zyl helps a rising star overcome hurdles | TeamSA - TeamSA

Olympian Van Zyl helps a rising star overcome hurdles

When Rio-bound Olympian LJ van Zyl (Tuks/HPC) competes in the 400-metre hurdles in Budapest, Hungary on Monday, he’ll be striving to dip under 49 seconds again.
‘In my last two races I didn’t really perform at my best, so it would be a great confidence-booster if I could run a good race before the Olympic Games again. Any time faster than 49 seconds will make me happy, but it will be even more important to concentrate on executing a technically faultless race. If I could run a faultless race in Budapest, as well as in London on Friday, I would be very pleased.’
Recently Van Zyl didn’t only focus on ensuring that he will be at his best for the Games, but also acted as a mentor for 19-year-old Kefilwe Mogawane who will compete at the World Junior Championships starting in Poland on Tuesday.
Van Zyl predicts that Mogawane has the ability to qualify for the final, providing that he does not allow himself to be intimidated.
‘Kefilwe has been training with me the past five weeks. I’m quite impressed with how he has improved. He is quick to understand and adapt to new ideas. What’s more, he is hungry to succeed which is always a good quality in any athlete.
‘I think it will be important to focus on his technique at a later stage so that he can learn to hurdle with both legs. If he is able to do that, his times will certainly improve.’
Training with Van Zyl was a dream come true for Mogawane. ‘From ever since I can remember LJ has been my role model. What is amazing about LJ is that, in spite of everything he has achieved, he has no ‘airs’ about him. He is keen to share his knowledge and experience with younger athletes.
‘Apart from helping with my technique and giving me training tips, the most important thing I have learned from LJ is to believe in my own abilities and not to be scared of dreaming big.’
The relationship between Van Zyl and the Mogawane family goes back some years. In 2011 LJ and Kefilwe’s older brother, Ofentse, teamed up to help South Africa win a silver medal in the 4x400m-relay at the World Championships in Daegu.
Akani Simbine (Tuks/HPC) will be competing in the 200m in Budapest tomorrow.
Gezelle Magerman (Tuks/HPC), who trains with Van Zyl, will also compete at the World Junior Championships.
Meanwhile, African and South African 400-hurdles champion, Wenda Nel (Tuks/HPC), is moderately satisfied with her 4th place performance (54.93s) at the Monaco Diamond League Meeting.
‘Naturally I would have loved to have run a faster time, but at least I am consistently running times faster 55 seconds. I am still experimenting to find out what will work and not work for me at the Olympic Games. I also have to work on my stride pattern.’

Picture of Mogawane and Van Zyl courtesy of Reg Caldecott

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