PRETORIA – Finishing third in the 400m hurdles at the Diamond League meeting in Doha was just the confidence booster LJ van Zyl needed before he lines up at the next meet in Shanghai on Saturday.
The Tuks athlete is not too happy with the time he ran, but for now he will take it.
“I would have liked to dip under 49 seconds in Doha but running a fast time was not the priority. To be honest I wasn’t sure what sort of form I was in having to recover from a cold and then suffering some sinus problems.
“Hennie Kriel (his coach) advised me to start of conservatively and try and get faster as the race progresses. I did exactly that and it worked. I was feeling really strong over the last two hurdles.”
According to Van Zyl he has only started adapting to Kriel’s coaching programme recently.
“I can feel I am getting stronger and stronger. The challenge at first was to get used to the way coach Hennie does things. It is totally different to what I was used to.”
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Kriel (Tuks/HPC) said he knew that Van Zyl was in for a tough race as he was racing “blind” in lane eight.
“I know from experience that athletes often have nothing left when they get to the last two hurdles. Many a race has been lost in the last 40 metres. That is why I did not want LJ to start off too quickly.”
Kriel added that he expected Aderrahaman Samba (Qatar) to win.
“He is still a novice when it comes to racing the 400m hurdles. I don’t think he has competed in more than five or six international races yet, but he is the real deal," he said.
"I realised that after seeing with what ease he won in Sasolburg earlier this season. Because of this I knew it would be mistake for LJ to try and race him from the start.”
Samba, who is being coached by South Africa’s Hennie Kotze, won the race in a time of 48.44. The Olympic champion, Kerron Clement (USA), was second in 49.40 and Van Zyl third in 49.49.
Cornel Fredericks (Tuks) was fifth in a time of 49.96s. It was the first time in two years that Fredericks has competed in a Diamond League race. Boniface Mucheru (Kenya), last year’s silver medallist at the Olympic Games finished seventh in 50.61.