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Having recovered from a career threatening injury, South African middle distance runner Juan van Deventer has returned with a bang.
Van Deventer, who broke his knee cap after he was hit by a car while training a year ago, made a successful comeback to competitive running last week.
“I've had to overcome physical and mental battles throughout the last 12 months,” Van Deventer said ahead of the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo where he lines up in the men's 1 500 metres on Sunday.
“It's been a very long and tough road to recovery. A year ago I was not even able to walk.
“The greatest challenge has been trying to get my mind to believe that I can still be competitive at an international level without the same amount of training that I have done in the past.”
He said the injury could not have come at a worse time as he was in the best shape of his career.
“When I was involved in the accident, I was at a very high level and that is what I am working towards again,” he said.
Van Deventer made his return to the track, clocking an impressive three minutes, 38.69 seconds (3:38.69) in a 1 500 metre race at a low-key meeting in Germany last week.
“The race itself went okay. I felt very rusty and unsure of what to expect,” he said.
“With about 400m to go, I was feeling more relaxed but the last 200m I started to tighten up a bit.
“I think that was due to the fact that I have not raced for such a long period of time.”
Van Deventer said he was a little surprised with his time in Germany, considering he had been in recovery for most of the last year.
“My training has indicated that I should be running times in that region and faster,” he said.
“Considering it was my first race and it was a very small meeting I was a bit surprised.
“You can't really tell just on a training session how a race will go, so I was happy that I was able to handle the pace in the race.”
The 29-year-old needs to record two Olympic qualifying times of 3:35.50 to secure a spot in the South African team for the London Olympic Games.
While he missed the qualifying standard in Germany, he believed he could reach the mark in his second attempt.
“On Sunday, I am running in a very strong field,” he said.
“I am going to give it all I've got to reach the standard.
“If all goes well then I should dip under it.”
Van Deventer will target four more races after Hengelo in an effort to secure Olympic Games participation.
He was one of the standout SA athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing sixth in the men's 1 500m final.
While the accident had an adverse effect on his preparations for the London Games, Van Deventer remained positive about improving his Beijing result.
“The build-up to London has not nearly been the same quality as the previous Games due the accident,” he said.
“At this stage, I am taking a step-by-step approach – first to qualify, then to get selected, then to get into the semi-final, then into the final.
“And, if I make it to that point, I will definitely try and improve on my sixth place from Beijing.” – Sapa