London Olympian Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) started her Rio 2016 campaign with a bang on Saturday when she won the George Claassen 10-kilometre road race in 33 minutes and 30 seconds
‘It was the fastest I’ve ever finished a race. I clocked 2:58 for the ninth kilometre and my time for the last kilometre was 3:03. It was a total surprise. I didn’t expect to be so fast at this stage, especially because I am still busy doing “donkey work”. I haven’t even started training on the track,’ said a jubilant Van Zyl who is also an HPC-sponsored athlete.
Her winning time is a personal best for a 10km race run at altitude. In 2014 she won a Spar Race in 33:32.
Van Zyl said jokingly that maybe there is something to say for the hormonal changes experienced by a woman after giving birth. Louis, the son of Irvette and fellow Olympian husband, LJ, was born in September last year.
‘Or maybe it is merely a case of being really hungry to succeed after being unable to race for most of last year.’
One can only wonder what Van Zyl’s time would have been over the weekend if she had raced at sea level.
‘I spoke to my coach, Lindsey Parry (head coach at HPC), and we are in agreement that I might have run a time faster than 32 minutes. But of course it’s only speculation. I will have to go out and do it.’
Van Zyl’s overall best 10km time is the 32:50 she ran in Durban in 2011.
‘Although running 33:30 is a good confidence booster, it’s important for me not to get too carried away. I fully realise that there is still much hard work to be done before I will be ready to qualify for the Olympic Games. From 1 February I’ll have to combine training for the 10 000 metres as well as for the marathon.’
On Sunday Van Zyl will be competing in the Johnson Crane half-marathon in Johannesburg but says this will be only a tempo run.
If everything goes according to plan, Van Zyl hopes to qualify for the Olympic marathon in London on 24 April.
She also plans to attempt to qualify for the 10 000 metres at an earlier stage, but that may prove to be tricky because there are not that many 10 000m races for women at sea-level locally.
The 10 000m event at the South African Championships in Stellenbosch will be on 16 April. This causes a slight dilemma for Van Zyl, because she also wants to compete in a Spar 10km race in Cape Town the next day and it will be almost impossible for her to be competitive in both these races.
Picture of Van Zyl courtesy of Reg Caldecott