Louzanne Coetzee aims to tread golden path to Paris Paralympics

Louzanne Coetzee crosses the finish line with her guide Claus Kempen to claim a bronze medal in the T12 marathon at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021. Photo: Reuters

Louzanne Coetzee crosses the finish line with her guide Claus Kempen to claim a bronze medal in the T12 marathon at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021. Photo: Reuters

Published Feb 23, 2024


Louzanne Coetzee is a woman on a mission.

South Africa’s two-time Paralympian is gunning for gold at the Paris Games later this year, and she is clear on exactly what she has to do to realise that goal.

A silver medallist in the 1 500m T11 at the Tokyo Paralympics back in 2021 – she also claimed a bronze in the T12 marathon – the 30-year-old from Bloemfontein wants the ultimate medal this time around.

“We are 100% focused on Paris. Every single thing we do from here on in is with the end goal in mind. We are building, thinking, learning and working towards the gold (medal),” Coetzee told Independent Newspapers last week.

That was before she finished third in the discipline during the Dubai leg of the World Para Athletics Grand Prix on Thursday last week.

Now back home, the runner – who was born blind – is eagerly anticipating the SA national championships that will be taking place in her home town late next month.

“It’s exciting that the championships are coming to my home town, and I am looking forward to doing well in front of my family and friends.”

That she will do well is in no doubt, especially given her fantastic run in Dubai, where her guide Claus Kempen was making his track debut.

“He was nervous,” Coetzee said, chuckling. “We were both a little nervous because it was our first track race together.

“We are normally partners on the road, where it is easier to fix things as you run because the distance is much longer. But we did well.”

Indeed they did, given that the race took place while they were still in their base training phase.

“I’m happy for now with the result from Dubai, excited for where we are headed. We did not expect to be very fast because we were in the last stages of our base training block. We will now be moving into (our) speed training programme,” she said.

A track and road specialist, Coetzee will once again compete in both the 1 500m and the marathon at the Paris Paralympics, taking place from August 28 to September 8.

“The main focus is on the 1 500,” she said.

“But we are also going to do the marathon. When we went to Tokyo, we were not sure it (doing the two disciplines) would work, but we did well and we are going to run the marathon again.”

Coetzee finished third in the marathon in Tokyo to bring home two medals, thus making up for her disqualification in her maiden Paralympic appearance in Rio.

She is now going for gold, and is delighted to have secured support from medical aid company Profmed, which is backing her to the hilt as she builds up for Paris in what it has termed Path2Paris.

“We really appreciate the support we are getting from Profmed, which is very stellar.”

As part of her build-up to the Paris Games, Coetzee will be running in the Two Oceans Marathon in April.

“I am going to Two Oceans and will be pacing the two-hour bus for the half-marathon, and I am excited about that,” she said.

“I think it is going to be great fun, and thereafter we will see which track events we will participate in as build-up to Paris.”

It is this attitude – have fun while you are running – that helps Coetzee succeed as much as she does.

“With high-performance sport there is a lot of pressure and as an athlete you can add to it by overthinking things,” she said.

“So, while the Olympics are a big deal, I try not to focus too much on that. and just concentrate on enjoying it and doing the best I can.

“I believe that if you over-blow the event mentally, you are making things hard for yourself.”

And so it will be that while she has her goals set on bringing home that gold from Paris, Coetzee will not be putting any undue pressure on herself as she participates in events building up to the Games.

It is a strategy that has worked for her so far, after all.

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