Twice a Commonwealth javelin champion, Sunette Viljoen finally got her hands on a coveted Olympic Games medal on Thursday night.
It’s been four long and painful years since the disappointment of the last Games in London as she ended one place off the podium with German opponent Linda Stahl beating her to bronze.
Here in Rio, Viljoen’s form was evident from the get-go with her first throw setting the tone with a 64.92-metre effort. On another day it might have been good for gold but not this time as Croatian Sara Kolak collected top honours with a 66.18m best of the night.
Viljoen’s only other two throws pegged at 61.04 and 63m but the 64.92 was good enough to seal silver.
‘I feel so overwhelmed. I was so close to the gold medal … it was right there until the end,’ said Viljoen who at 32 years of age, was the fourth oldest woman in the final.
‘To win a silver, I couldn’t ask for more after London. To come back after four years and to keep fighting … I couldn’t have asked for more. For a whole four years I’ve been praying and asking to be the Olympic champion. To come so close … I tried and tried and tried and I got the silver.’
Viljoen admitted that the memories of London were never far away on Thursday night.
‘My heart started to pump in the last round as if I had to lose a medal again in the last round I don’t know … but luckily it didn’t happen,’ Viljoen recalled.
She’s also certainly not done with competitive athletics, even at 32 and hinted that she has her sights set on a third Commonwealth Games title, with the next games being hosted by Gold Coast in Australia two years from now and she’ll stand a very real chance of grabbing her third gold at those Games.
Already she’s one of SA’s most decorated athletes with five African Championships gold medals, two World Championships bronze medals and two All Africa Games bronze medals.
But somehow one suspects that Olympic silver beats them all…
Picture of Viljoen courtesy of Christiaan Kotze/SASPSA