Pretoria - LJ van Zyl has won more 400m hurdles races than he can remember holds the South African record and has won a medal at the World Championships, but all of this pales in comparison to becoming a dad.
A new chapter started for Van Zyl and his wife the Olympic marathon athlete, Irvette, on Monday with the birth of their son.
“Being there seeing my son being born was the most amazing experience," Van Zyl said.
"I always wondered how it is going to be and now I can in all honesty say that it is definitely a better experience than any of the races I have won.
"There are no words to describe my feelings when I got to hold my son for the first time."
According to the Tuks/HPC-athlete little Louis is quite skinny.
“He has quite athletic an athletic build, his legs are constantly moving which resembles sort of the movements made by a cyclist," he said.
"Maybe he will take up cycling one day. Actually I don’t mind what he does when he grows up.
"It would be nice if he takes to athletics, but if he does not it is not going to be the end of the world.
"All that Irvette and I want for him is to be happy and healthy.”
Van Zyl will have to put his role as dad on hold for a while as he is flying to Brussels on Wednesday to compete in Friday’s Diamond League Meeting.
“I would have preferred not to go but I have given the organizers my word that I will be there so I feel it is just right that I do fulfil my commitments. Luckily Irvette supports me. I am literally just going to be in and out. On Saturday morning I am already flying back to South Africa,” Van Zyl said.
“It is going to be strange running my first race as a dad. I know at this stage Louis don’t care where and if I run but still he still he going to be my motivation on Friday.
"I want to make him proud. I am not going to commit myself to a definite result. My first goal is going to be to try and run a time faster than 49 seconds if I can do it there is always a chance that I can get a top three finish.”
Van Zyl is in for a tough challenge as Kenya’s world champion Nicholas Bett, who set a world leading time in Beijing of 47.79 seconds is in the field along with Jeffrey Gibson (Bahamas), who finished third at the World Championships in a time of 48.17 seconds. Boniface Mucheru Tumuti (Kenia) who was fifth in Beijing in a time of 48.33 will also be racing.
Van Zyl has been quite consistent this season, finishing second in the Diamond League Meetings in New York, Lausanne and London which means he is currently fourth in the Diamond race.
Bershawn Jackson (US) who has won three Diamond League races will be crowned the champion.
Akani Simbine (100m) and Anaso Jobodwana (200m) are the other two South Africans that will be in action.