South African Athletics

Nel faces toughest test of 2015

2015-07-01 13:23
Wenda Nel (AFP)

Pretoria - Armed with the personal best she posted earlier this year, South African women’s 400m hurdles ace Wenda Nel will face her toughest challenge when she lines up in her first Diamond League race of the season in Paris on Saturday.

At one point Nel boasted with the world leading time after clocking 54.37 seconds at the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing in May.

The rest of the world has since caught up with Nel as she slid to eighth fastest this season and she will line up against four women that have gone faster than her in 2015.

“The girls are catching up and my first race of the international season was perhaps easier for me to win although I ran a personal best which surprised me,” Nel said.

“Once you’ve run such a good PB, you crave for more and I want to get there again and while the races that followed were good for experience but in terms of time I want to consistently get close to the PB.”

Nel remains among the leading women in the one-lap hurdles and she has been further buoyed by four podium finishes from as many international races with three on the top step.

Compared to previous years where she raced in low-key meets in Europe, Nel was finally producing top performances against world-class competitors.

While her victory in Beijing rates as her best performance this season, it was her third-place finish at the Prague World Challenge meet in May.

There Nel led for most part of the race and even led reigning world champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic before tripping over the last hurdle for the bronze medal.

“Compared to last year I feel more confident going into the first Diamond League race with the knowledge that anything can happen,” Nel said.

“So I am more in the mix than last year, so I am excited about what could follow and they are predicting good weather.”

Nel will be racing in three Diamond League meets in July before the world championships and she will be looking to dip below 55 seconds before the global showpiece.

The 26-year-old was edging closer to Myrtle Bothma’s national 400m hurdles record of 53.74s.

Breaking the record may not be the main priority at this stage but Nel are under no illusions that she would have to get close to that time if she wanted to challenge the world’s best in Beijing.

“Of course I am getting closer but it is not something that has to happen now or will definitely happen although it would be nice,” she said,

“The record is not my main focus but if I can get into a final, and if you make it onto the podium it will have to be in a record time.”

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