By Mark Etheridge
Willem Coertzen is quite rightly walking on Cloud Nine after his African decathlon record at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia.
A member of SASCOC’s Operation Excellence programme (OPEX), Coertzen has clearly benefited by the support from the country’s Olympic governing body.
He ended a fine ninth earlier this week after the 10 gruelling events, spread over two days.
His points tally was 8343 for the two-days work. At the national championships in Port Elizabeth in April last year he set the previous mark of 8244 points and at the Olympics in London last year, where he also finished ninth, his total was 8173.
His Moscow result means he has improved that African record by 99 points and he was in buoyant mood when he spoke to Road to Rio 2016 this week.
“I’m really happy about my two days of competition and couldn’t really ask for more or for better conditions. I had a really solid first day. I’ve been doing a lot of speed work the last few weeks to I expected to have good running events. The second day could have started off betterÔÇª my hurdles have been really good this year so I wanted to run quicker and the same with the discus, I’ve been throwing well until now.”
Pole vault is the one discipline that Coetzer has been having an on-off love affair with during his decathlon career. “Yeah, it’s a bit frustrating for me now as I’m struggling to get bigger poles because they’re very expensive.
“This is definitely the event that I can improve most on and score most points in. if I vault 4.90 plus consistently I can add around 120-150 point to my score which will then put me in the 8500-score band or thereabouts.
Putting that into perspective is the fact that Canadian Damian Warner won bronze in Moscow with a score of 8512 so if Coertzen can make this improvement and fine-tuning he’ll be very definite medal material.
To this end he plans to head south this winter to up his game. “I’m going to focus a lot of my attention on the vault this winter and am trying to get down to Joep Loots (coach of former Olympian pole vaulter Okkert Brits) in Stellenbosch to get it sorted.”
Overall though Coertzen is on top of the world. “I’m feeling really positive going forward. There’s always room for improvement but I’m getting to the point where it’s the small fine-tuning that’s going to make the big difference.”
On the Moscow memories: “The competition was ridiculously high ÔÇô 15 guys over 8200 points, which is Olympic A qualification standard, the best world championships in history to date so happy to be part of it.
“All the hard work I put in day after day and the hours that I spent on the track grinding down through the tough times (financially or training-wise) is paying off.”
Coertzen also gave credit to the OPEX programme. “Since being able to train full time this year now that I’m on Opex has helped me so much. I can just feel the big difference in my training, and actually my whole mindset.”
Next up for Coertzen is some well-earned rest. “Then I’ll head to my last competition of the year, in Talence, France (finances permitting of course!)”
For the record, Coertzen’s individual marks in his SA record performance were as follows:
100m (10.95sec), long jump (7.44m), shot put (13.88m), high jump (2.05m), 400m (48.32s), 110m hurdles (14.30s), discus (43.25), pole vault (4.50m), javelin (69.35m), 1500m (4:24.60).