Van Zyl eyes world champs
Johannesburg - After putting his hand up with a blistering performance in Pretoria on Friday night, 400m hurdles star LJ van Zyl has set his sights on a medal at the global championships.
The 25-year-old brushed aside various distractions to clock a stunning 47.66 at the second Yellow Pages meeting, his first race of the season, and improved Llewellyn Herbert's 11-year-old national record by 0.15 seconds.
"I knew I was in good form, but the programme was running an hour late and it was raining," Van Zyl said on Saturday.
"Somehow it all came together. I still can't believe. I'm so happy."
Van Zyl said the key, after hitting his career best form in the fledgling stages of the season, would be to retain his fine shape and peak again at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea in six months' time.
"The same thing happened in 2006," Van Zyl said.
"I ran 48.05 in March and at the end of the season I ran 48.08. That's what I need to try and do again.
"It doesn't help running 47.6 in February and 49.0 at the end of the year. It's important for me to keep my form.
"I'll sit down with my coach and we'll discuss our plans for the rest of the year."
The 2006 season was perhaps Van Zyl's best yet.
He won the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March and five months later he clinched gold at the African Championships in Bambous. In September he won the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, falling 0.03 seconds short of his personal best, and six days later capped off a stellar season with a silver medal at the IAAF World Cup in Athens.
This year, however, he said his primary focus was on the World Championships where hoped to reach the final for the first time in six years.
He finished sixth at the biennial showpiece in Helsinki in 2005, but two years later in Osaka he fell out in the heats, and in Berlin in 2009 he was eliminated in the semifinals.
"If I can run this kind of time now, and if I keep my form, I think I definitely have a chance of winning a medal," he said.
His domestic season, however, was far from over and he said another fast time was on the cards.
He would miss the final Yellow Pages Series meeting in Bellville on March 10, but would compete at the interprovincial meeting in Germiston on March 26 and the South African Championships in Durban on April 9 and 10.
"I need to stay in good shape, and it's going to be tricky, but hopefully I will be able to run another fast time," he said.
He would then take a short break before kicking off his European campaign at the Diamond League meeting in Doha on May 6.
And if the likes of Bershawn Jackson, Angelo Taylor and Kerron Clement were in their best form, Van Zyl said he would put up a chase in an effort to improve his national mark.
"If the Americans are running 47's and I want to compete with them, I must also run 47's," he said.
"The only way to beat them is to run fast times."