It may not be over the more established distance but former Commonwealth 400-metre hurdles champion LJ van Zyl’s international campaign for the season will be up and running on Saturday.
Manchester is the venue and the 200m hurdles the challenge as Van Zyl competes at the Great CityGames.
The event will take place at the purpose-built athletics arena in Albert Square in the heart of the city and will provide a unique opportunity to see top athletes from across the globe competing in an urban environment and it will not be surprising if more than 20 000 fans should turn up to watch the action.
According to the Tukshpc-athlete this is one of his favourite meetings on the European Athletics Calendar, especially because it is in aid of charity.
There’s no doubting Van Zyl has a good track record in Manchester. In 2013 he won the 200-hurdles in a time of 20.63 seconds. Only Britain’s Andy Turner (20.11s in 2011) and the USA’s Bershawn Jackson (22.26s, also in 2011) have run faster times than the South African.
‘The Great CityGames will be an excellent warm-up for me before I compete in the Diamond League Meeting in Doha (15 May),’ said Van Zyl, who has already qualified on four occasions this season for the World Championships in Beijing. His best time so far is 49.26.
‘Doha is very special to me. It is where I won my first major international race in 2005. I also hold the meeting record with a time of 48.11.’
Statisticians are of the opinion that Van Zyl has run times faster than 49 seconds in the 400-hurdles on no less than 48 occasion with his best performance in 2011 when he set the South African record of 47.66sec in Pretoria.]
‘I’m not sure. I know the first time I was able to do so was in 2002 when I was just 16. My guess is that it is probably correct to say that I have run faster than 49 seconds on 48 occasions. Perhaps I should sit down and count how many times I have done it. I would love to take my tally up to at least 50.’
‘One of my immediate goals at the moment is to break 49 seconds again and I’m confident I’ll be able to do so in Doha. After winning the SA title in Stellenbosch I took a short break to recharge my batteries for the international season. Since I got back on the track my training has gone very well.’
Van Zyl will compete in the Diamond League Meeting in New York on13 June and maybe in Rome as well on 4 June. ‘If I do not compete in Rome I will race in Prague on 8 June.
Meanwhile, back home in Potchefstroom, 16 countries will be in action at the SA Open Championships.
According to the allathletics.co.za website, 100 international athletes from as far as Denmark, Finland, Kenya and Nigeria confirming their participation.
Olympic 800m silver medallist Nijel Amos of Botswana, who went on to win last year’s Commonwealth Games title, and one-lap hurdles stars Kurt Couto of Mozambique, who reached the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics, will turn out at the annual event on Friday and Saturday.
Couto will be up against Boniface Mucheru of Kenya, a four-time African Championships bronze medallist, with Van Zyl away in Manchester and 2014 Commonwealth champion Cornel Fredericks recently ruled out of competition for at least three months with an Achilles injury.
The domestic field includes middle-distance training partners Elroy Gelant and Caster Semenya, as well as 110m hurdler Antonio Alkana, who clocked 13.54 seconds at the SA Senior Championships in Stellenbosch last month, climbing to third place in the SA all-time list in his specialist event.
The women’s 10000m race has.been cancelled by the organisers due to a lack of interest, while the women’s 3000m steeplechase event has received only one entry, along with a number of youth disciplines.
‘We will decide at the meeting how to deal with these events,’ the national federation told its members this week.
The annual meeting will include youth and disability events, with in-form Under-17 speedsters Gift Leotlela and African Youth Games team-member Taylon Bieldt among the elite participants.
Source : South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee