JOHANNESBURG - Luxolo Adams felt like a deer caught in the headlights when he made his debut on the European track and field circuit. If you can’t swim, learn. That is exactly what the half-lap sprint specialist did when he went to Europe to pursue his dream.
The Burgersdorp-born Adams won his maiden South African 200m title in Pretoria in March. The 21-year-old rocketed up the South African all-time list when he stopped just short of the sub-20 second barrier at the Liquid Telecom Grand Prix Series in Paarl.
His new personal best of 20.01 seconds was enough to secure a few races in Europe and two months later he found himself in Oordegem, Belgium. “I was not ready. I arrived on Thursday and had the race on Saturday,” Adams said.
“When I got there I saw the athletes doing different kind of drills and I was looking at them thinking ‘yoh, yoh, these guys are professional’. The starter set us off in Spanish and I got out of the blocks very late and I had to chase the guys and after the race, I told myself ‘Luxolo, this is what you wanted’. I sat myself down and said ‘this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I need to be serious’.”
Adams has asked retired South African 400m hurdles record holder LJ van Zyl and Botswana star Isaac Makwala for advice on handling the pressures and challenges of being a professional athlete. For a small town, Burgersdorp has produced some big names, including rising hurdles star Sokwakhana Zazini. Zazini and Adams practically grew up together and trained together under the tutelage of former Free State Cheetahs flyer Jan-Harm van Wyk.
“I was doing the 400m at a schools meeting and I won by a big margin,” Adams recalls. “He came up to me and said ‘you have a good technique, you can run’ and he asked me to join his training group."
Zazini ended up at the TuksSport High School while Adams left Burgersdorp for Port Elizabeth where he trains under Gerrie Posthumus. “The coach (Van Wyk) has played a big role in my athletics career since then where he has been giving me advice,” Adams said. “I’ve always had that vision, that background image of seeing myself running at Diamond Leagues, the Olympics and World Championships and I am currently living my dream.”
Adams still managed to step onto the podium in Belgium with a time of 20.67 but would take another big step in his career at the FBK Games in the Netherlands, with a time of 20.34. A week later he made his Diamond League debut in Stockholm where he finished third in 20.36. On Saturday evening he rounded off his European campaign, finishing fourth at the Paris Diamond League meeting, clocking 20.21.
“I am looking forward to my next race where I expect to post a sub-20 second time. The honest truth is I surprised myself this year and I didn’t expect to come this far,” he said. Adams will take a short break from racing, returning to South Africa before representing the country at the inaugural Athletics World Cup in London between July 14 and 15.