Van Zyl eyes podium spot
Johannesburg - South African national record holder LJ van Zyl believes he can recover from a recent drop in form as he looks to step on the podium at the IAAF World Championships which start in Daegu, South Korea on Saturday.
Few South African athletes have produced consistent quality performances this season, but Van Zyl has led the way in the men‘s 400m hurdles.
The 25-year-old started his season with a record-breaking effort, clocking 47.66 seconds in Pretoria in February, and after running under 48 seconds in his next three races, he holds the top four fastest times in the world.
Van Zyl, however, was unable to sustain his form as the European season progressed, and failed to pick up a medal at his last two Diamond League meetings.
"My preparations have been going well and I am ready for it. I believe it will go well," Van Zyl said.
"I went through a bit of a dip but I am picking it up again.
"My times in training have been more or less the same as those I ran before I improved the South African record."
Van Zyl expected his strongest competition to come from the American one-lap hurdlers but added that it could be anyone's race.
"Anyone who makes it to the final will be a threat, so I will approach it like any final," he said.
Van Zyl could also make an appearance in the men's 4 x 400m relay with fellow hurdler Cornel Fredericks and double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, competing for the first time in the able-bodied world championships.
Based on the recent form of South Africa’s elite athletes, they are expected to struggle in an effort to emulate their performance from the 2009 global championships in Berlin where they picked up two gold medals and one silver.
The team received a massive blow to their medal chances when defending men’s 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi withdrew injured last week.
Despite inconsistent performances this season from women’s 800m champion Caster Semenya and men’s long jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena, both will hope to step on the podium again.
After grabbing the limelight in Berlin as an 18-year-old, and the gender controversy which followed, Semenya’s manager, Jukka Harkonen, said on Thursday she would be motivated to close that chapter of her life by winning another gold medal.
Semenya, however, has not come close to the 1:55.45 national record she set to win gold two years ago, and has only twice run under two minutes in her last 13 races.
Mokoena, as on previous occasions, and despite his big match temperament, will go into the world championships as an underdog, but he said last week he was in the best shape of his life and ready to top the podium.
African women's javelin throw record holder Sunette Viljoen vaulted up the world rankings last week, improving her continental best by nine centimetres at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China.
Her heave of 66.47 metres launched her to fourth place, and her coach, Tertius Liebenberg, said after she retained her student title that his charge had the ability to reach the 70m mark.
South Africa's campaign at the global athletics showpiece kicks off on Saturday with the women’s marathon.
Rene Kalmer and Annerien van Schalkwyk will toe the line, but with Tanith Maxwell having pulled out with an injury, the South Africans will not compete as a team in the Marathon World Cup, with three athletes to count.