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Johannesburg – South African high hurdles record holder Lehann Fourie hopes to take the confidence and momentum from his 2012 season through to this year's campaign in an effort to reach the final at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia, in August.
“It will be important for me to show that I can follow up from last year,” Fourie said this week.
“It is easy to be an underdog, and nobody really knows about you, then you have nothing to lose.
“Now that there are more eyes on you it becomes more difficult, but the pressure is something that motivates you to run faster.”
The 2012 London Olympic Games turned out to be a watershed event for Fourie when, against all odds, he featured in the final of the men's 110m hurdles.
Over-trained and under-prepared, he went into the global showpiece with no expectations of making the final.
Competing in the final reinvigorated the 25-year-old’s career and he went on to break the national record at the Diamond League meeting in Belgium in September, shaving 0.02 seconds off Shaun Bownes’ previous mark.
His new-found form was a far cry from the topsy turvy build-up to the Olympics as his preparations were hindered by over-training and injury.
“I could have run better. The Olympic Games was my first race in a long time,” he said.
“If my year worked out differently I would have run faster until the Games but I am happy that I was able to break the record afterwards.”
Fourie made a solid start in his preparations for the Games, laying a solid base and finishing seventh in the men’s 60m hurdles final at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, in March.
“At the beginning of the season you think it is only a matter of time before you qualify for the Olympic Games – you are in good shape and you just have to run,” Fourie said.
However, the pressure mounted when he picked up an injury which kept him off the track for two months.
Returning to training, he had just three weeks to meet South Africa's qualifying standard.
“After eight weeks without training, I had to start racing again and I pushed my body so hard to run in three to four races per week,” he said.
He nevertheless went on to breathe new life into his career.
Fourie believed the roller-coaster year he experienced would hold him in good stead this season.
“At the world championships it is important to get into the final and I hope to be in the position to be fit enough to be able to compete,” he said.
“I was so tired in the Olympic final – just two hours before, I had run in the semi-final. Physically and mentally I wasn't ready for it.
“My life has changed a bit because I've found some motivation for my athletics and even though things aren't going so well in South Africa (in terms of athletics) I am motivated to carry on at my own pace.”
After the euphoria of the Games and his record breaking run in Belgium, Fourie had a long rest as he returned to South Africa to recharge.
Despite his achievements in 2012, he is still struggling to find funds to sustain his dream of clinching silverware at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He also did not receive any financial reward for improving the South African and African record.
The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has, however, thrown him a lifeline by including him in the Operation Excellence programme, which provides financial and coaching support to prospective medal winners in Rio.
“I didn't run for money but it would have been nice to think that I would get something out after what I've put in,” he said.
“Athletics is down in South Africa and for companies it’s about what the people want to see and there aren't many athletics meetings.
“It is a vicious circle, but Opex helps a lot and it is a good system because they don’t just give you money, they look at everything you need to run faster.”
Fourie returns to South Carolina in the United States next week where his preparations for the world championships will start in earnest. – Sapa