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SA’s ace hurdlers look to chase 49sec barrier

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A rather disconcerting statistic in South African men’s athletics is that the last time any 400-metre hurdler dipped under 49 seconds in a local race was in 2014.

What’s more, the last time it happened internationally was in 2016.

It should come as no surprise that in both instances it was South African record holder, LJ van Zyl (Tuks), who was able to do so. In 2014 in Sasolburg, he ran a time of 48.96 and in 2016 in Ostrava his time was 48.67.

A time faster than 49 seconds is considered to be the benchmark to being internationally competitive.

The current state of affairs is hard to believe when taking into account that since 1997 South Africa’s hurdlers have won bronze at the Olympic Games; silver and bronze medals at the World Championships; and two gold and two silver medals at the Commonwealth Games.

But just maybe Friday’s Gauteng North Championships at Tuks could see this sub 49 seconds ‘drought’ in South African 400m hurdling can come to an end.

The who’s who of South African hurdling could line up to race. If nothing unforeseen happens LJ van Zyl, Cornel Fredericks, Lindsay Hanekom and Le Roux Hamman, all Olympians, could battle it out in the final.

And Constant Pretorius who represented South Africa at the World Student Games and has beenis selected to compete at the Commonwealth Games is also racing. The Tuks physiotherapist student has improved his time over the last three years by more than two seconds. In 2015 his best time was 51.54. Last year it was 49.2s. Fredericks was the only South African to have run a faster time in 2017.

Hamman (Tuks) is quietly confident that the winning time is going to be fast on Friday. ‘Maybe if the conditions allow for it one or more of us might be able to dip under 49.’

Although he has entered to race Fredericks (Tuks) will make his final decision on Friday.

Hennie Kriel who coaches Pretorius said his athlete is raring to go. ‘The fact that he studies physiotherapy makes for rough going at times, but Constant always relishes a good challenge. His training has been going well. So considering all things he is ready to run a fast time.’

It would be interesting to see what sort of form Van Zyl (pictured right) is in as he’s the other hurdler representing South Africa at the Commonwealth Games.

South Africa’s athletes have established a proud Commonwealth Games tradition in the 400m hurdles by medalling at the last three Games.

In 2006 in Melbourne Van Zyl won gold while Alwyn Myburgh was second; in 2010 in New Delhi Van Zyl won a silver medal, and in 2014 in Glasgow Fredericks won gold.

Pictures of Fredericks and Van Zyl courtesy of Reg Caldecott


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