‘Just so much sweeter’ for Tokyo-bound Wenda Nel
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It has been a long road over the last few years, but Wenda Nel has finally made it to the Tokyo Olympics.
The ace 400m hurdles star has been battling with injuries over the last few years, and even on her return to the track in 2021, it just looked like she wasn’t going to break through the qualifying mark of 55.40 seconds.
Nel ran 55.58sec in the heats at the South African championships in Pretoria last month, and won her ninth national title in the final, but was again short of the required time as she finished in 55.60.
“My biggest goal today was to run an Olympic qualification time, but like I said on Thursday, in hurdling, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. Unfortunately, I did not execute my ninth hurdle as planned,” Nel told her TuksSport club website at the time.
“The exciting thing is that after nearly 20 months of not racing, it starts to feel as if the rustiness is fading. My times are more consistent.
“Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before I qualify for Tokyo.”
On May 1, the 32-year-old was at it again in Potchefstroom, winning in 55.51sec, which actually placed her in second position on the world list for 2021 at the time. But that was scant consolation, as she needed to run 55.40.
And on Thursday, it finally happened – 55.16sec was her winning time at an Athletics
Central North West meeting in Potchefstroom.
At the time of writing, Nel, who has a personal best of 54.37sec, was still in second position on the world’s leading times this year, behind Panama athlete Gianna Woodruff’s 55.02.
With the international season getting under way over the next few weeks in the United States and Europe, there will be faster times posted.
Last year’s world lead was 53.79sec by Femke Bol of the Netherlands, although Olympic champion and world record holder Dalilah Muhammad (52.16sec) of the US didn’t race as she spent the time preparing for the Games.
But for Nel, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, it’s about reaching her second Olympics after Rio 2016, where she made it to the semi-finals.
“Walking into the weekend with an extra jump in my step,”
Nel posted on Instagram about her qualifying time.
“Things rarely work out exactly as planned, but when it does, the small victories are just so much sweeter. Therefore, no matter how small it might seem to the world, celebrate every step of your journey. One step closer to #tokyo #olympicqualifier”