World 400m hurdles bronze medallist LJ van Zyl crowned his dream season by bagging South Africa’s golden girl of road running, Irvette van Blerk.
The couple got engaged on Saturday, a day before Van Zyl left for a training camp in George in preparation for next year’s London Olympic Games.
Van Blerk, who specialises in road running, also experienced a superb season winning the Spar Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix for the second successive year.
Van Zyl said on Sunday it was important to him to marry someone that shared the same views on sport and who understood the nature of an athlete.
“Now I can relax with those arrangements out of the way and I can practice and focus on the Olympics,” Van Zyl said.
The South African 400m hurdles record holder said they shared other interests which made it easier to understand one another.
Van Zyl famously spent a large portion of the R200 000 cheque from Yellow Pages earlier this year for setting the new record of 47.66 seconds, on expanding his cattle herd.
Van Blerk on the other hand farms with flowers and plants.
The couple first met at the South African junior championships in Bloemfontein in 2004 and kept in touch ever since, said Van Zyl.
“We have been dating since 2008, after the Beijing Olympic Games and kept in touch before that. We did a lot of off road biking together during that period,” he said.
Van Zyl said he prepared something special for Van Blerk at his home in Pretoria and later took her to a restaurant where he made arrangements with champagne.
They are planning to tie the knot six weeks after the Games.
While the two athletes have grand plans for 2012, Van Zyl said the wedding will not take precedence over his focus and preparations for the global showpiece.
Van Zyl, one of South Africa’s biggest Olympic-medal hopefuls, is at a training camp in George until December 22. Next year he will only run in one warm-up local meet and the National Championships in Port Elizabeth in April before he kicks off the international season. – Sapa