It is astonishing how much can change in four years, and one only has to ask South Africa’s javelin queen Sunette Viljoen about her progress since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Four years ago Viljoen nearly missed the Games on a technicality and played second fiddle to her training partner and African record holder Justine Robbeson.
This time around the 28-year-old is armed with a string of African records behind her name. She set her most recent record less than two months before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Viljoen could possibly go to London as the No 1 women’s javelin thrower with her season's leading heave of 69.35 metres.
“You will always be nervous, but you have to channel it and I think I am at a stage where I am calm in myself, in my faith and in my heart.
“I am prepared, and I think the big thing is that you have nothing to be afraid of because you are prepared. I think there is nothing more that you can do.”
Considering the selection debacle from pre-Beijing it would have been almost unfathomable to think Viljoen would four years later be one of South Africa’s greatest medal contenders.
Viljoen was initially omitted from the Olympic team for the Beijing Games after her qualifying throw of 62.24 at a meeting that was not recognised as an Athletics SA (ASA) fixture.
After some diplomatic wrangling by ASA and former SA Olympic Committee president Sam Ramsamy, she was included at the 11th hour.
She failed to progress past the qualifying rounds in Beijing with a best throw of 55.58 a week after she was added to the team.
While the affair affected Viljoen negatively at the time, she believed it was valuable experience she banked for future endeavours.
This would be her third appearance at the Olympic Games after she made her debut as a wide-eyed 19-year-old at the 2004 Athens Games.
“Experience teaches you how to handle those kinds of situations, and while you are nervous and you might have that butterfly in the stomach, you learn how to deal with it,” she said.
She has made a meteoric rise in world javelin ranks since 2008, improving her personal best every season since 2008, progressing seven metres over the last three years.
While Viljoen has the Commonwealth and World Student titles behind her name, her crowning glory came at last year’s Daegu World Championships where she clinched the bronze medal.
Viljoen boosted her confidence at this year’s Diamond League meeting in New York in early June when she bettered her SA and Africa record with a mammoth throw of 69.35.
She beat world record holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic and launched herself into the first position on the world rankings.
“To again have thrown an African record the other day is great and I think I still have a couple of metres in me, and I've really worked hard,” Viljoen said.
She believed her ascent was just reward for hours of hard work.
“I am now in a privileged position to have that ammunition in my arsenal. It is what I have always strived for and I think I am now in the right place in my life.”
Viljoen will wrap up her Olympic Games preparations at this weekend's Diamond League meeting. – Sapa