SHANGHAI – South Africa's Wenda Nel will be challenged by at least two champions when she lines up to compete in Saturday’s 400m hurdles event at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting in China.
Dalilah Muhammad (USA) the gold medallist at the 2016 Olympic Games and silver medallist at the 2017 World Championships, as well as Janieve Russell (Jamaica) the Commonwealth Games champion, are all racing.
Sara Slott Petersen (Denmark) who won the silver medal at the 2016 Games, is also in the field.
At the beginning of the year, the Tuks athlete made a conscious decision not to allow herself to be intimidated anymore.
“You can say that I have come of age as I have decided that it’s high time for me to start believing in my abilities as a hurdler,” explained Nel.
The first sign that Nel was not going to give up without a proper fight was during the 400m hurdles final at the South African championships.
Going onto the last hurdle at the national championships at Tuks it was not a foregone conclusion that she would win as she and 17-year-old world youth champion, Zeney van der Walt (Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool), were running shoulder-to-shoulder.
Eventually the Tuks athlete just managed to take victory on the line, winning in 55.01 with the young upstart home in 55.05.
“It was one of the toughest races I’ve ever raced but also one of the most exciting. I was forced out of my comfort zone. In the past when I was in such a situation, I tended to make a mistake, or even worse I just gave up. This time I managed to stay focused. It was a big positive I could take from the race.”
Nel’s performance in the final during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was another do-or-die performance. She had to dig deep and fight to win the bronze medal.
“I’m proud of the way I raced at the Games. I made a few small mistakes during the race, but I was able to rectify it while hurdling. It meant I was focused and thinking. That was exciting to me,” said Nel, referring to the fact that she had her stride pattern wrong between hurdles eight and 10.
According to Nel, she had been told a slower start might prove a better strategy.
“I don’t have any regrets. Experience has taught me that you cannot afford to start too slowly as there is a real chance that you might never catch up. I have crashed and burned going out too fast, but I also had some good results doing so.
“As for Saturday, I will race aggressively. For now, I'm not obsessed with running a fast time as I know if I do the small things right, it will happen automatically.”
Nel will be one of four South Africans in action, the others being Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning long jumper Luvo Manyonga, bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen in the javelin and Rynardt van Rensburg in the 800m.
African News Agency (ANA)