Pretoria – With the biological clock ticking by the day and his athleticism diminishing by the season, Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena says he has three years remaining as a competitive long jump athlete.
The 28-year-old believes he will remain a strong medal contender in competitions up until the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, when he will be 31.
“Age is a big challenge as an athlete. I am not so young anymore. The next Olympic Games could be my last as a high-level competitor. The next three years are crucial for me as I’ll be working towards 2016. I just have to stay on my toes and make sure I’m ready. I am still jumping well and I feel good. At the age of 31 at the Olympics I’ll still be competing. But I think after that it will start to become a problem,” said Mokoena.
“I am aware that soon after 2016 the young guys will rip me apart, and I embrace the competition and accept that it’s part of the sport. It has to happen. It’s nature, there is nothing I can do about it,” he said.
Having endured a tough season last year, which included a disappointing showing at the London Olympic Games, Mokoena has had to alter his training regime to accommodate his aging physique.
“Age is something you cannot run away from. I feel I am still in my prime, yet I’ll be 29 next year. This past season was quite alright, it was better than last year, but now I am working on taking it up a notch,” he said.
“The London Games made me stronger. I didn’t perform well, But I learnt from it and I want to get as close as possible to the 8.5m mark and still be competitive.”
The Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist has his eye on the Commonwealth Games next August in Glasgow, Scotland.
“It’s like the mini-Olympic Games. And it’s a stepping stone towards Rio 2016. I’ll be aiming for the World Cup, the African Championships and the World Indoor Championships.”
With Athletics South Africa still under suspension from Sascoc (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) uncertainty remains about the immediate future of athletics in the country. The Heidelberg-born athlete said he was concerned about the young talent that had been affected by the discord between the two governing bodies.
“It’s a big knock for those athletes coming through. I hope good things emerge.”
Mokoena said the athletes were sometimes powerless to do anything to help in matters which directly affected them.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
“We can talk and we can do whatever, but in the end it boils down to whether what we say is put into action in another thing,” said the athlete.
Although he is frustrated by the Sascoc/ASA impasse Mokoena has found solace in his own support structure which is provided by the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.