Johannesburg - South African 400m hurdles record-holder LJ van Zyl will face his biggest test so far this season when he lines up in the first Diamond League meeting in Doha on Friday night.
Van Zyl has reignited his passion for the sport with superb performances on the track in South Africa before equalling the 200m hurdles record at the GreatCity Games in Manchester over the weekend.
“I am very happy with my season so far, I’ve dipped below 21 seconds in the 200m on three occasions, three times below 50 seconds in the 400m hurdles, while equalling the 200m hurdles. So I am smiling all the way,” Van Zyl said.
The 29-year-old believed his new coach Irma Reyneke played a major role in his new-found form in the one-lap hurdles.
“I think the change is playing a big role with new training techniques and considering my 200m time has dropped by 0.3 seconds within four months, so my speed has improved,” he said.
“I also started with a new gym coach at Tuks HPC, Wayne Coldman, who has really made me stronger while keeping me below 80kg.”
Van Zyl already qualified for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing later this year, dropping below the standard on four occasions this season with a season’s best of 49.26 seconds.
With the pressure of qualifying for the world championships out of the way, Van Zyl said he would be taking each race in his stride while hoping to have a good 48-second race in his arsenal.
Meanwhile, he will face a tough field in Doha where he holds the meeting record in his specialist event.
“I enjoy Doha every year, this will be my sixth appearance here and it was also the first major Grand Prix I have won in my career,” Van Zyl said.
Van Zyl won the Doha Diamond League event on two occasions with his 48.11 seconds win in 2011 setting the meeting record.
Among his competitors is 2004 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson.
The strongest challenge will come from former world champion Bershawn Jackson of the United States, who boasts with a season's best of 48.47 seconds.