Johannesburg - Two years after he last achieved a world-class performance in an international 400-hurdles race, LJ van Zyl is the first to admit he has performed below par since competing in Daegu, South Korea in 2011.
“The last time I was satisfied with the way I raced was when I won the bronze medal at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu,” Van Zyl said.
His time in the first heat was 48.58 seconds, in the semi-final 49.05 and his 48.88 was enough for a podium finish.
Van Zyl was quietly confident he might repeat his previous best at the IAAF Moscow World Championships which start on Saturday.
“I am slightly disappointed with the fact that I have not been able to run a time faster than 49 seconds since then, but there is nothing wrong with my speed.
"My problem is that I begin to fade towards the end of the race and this is costing me.
“That is why I have specifically focused, when training during the past few weeks, on being strong enough to take the race to my rivals over the last two hurdles."
Van Zyl believed a time of about 48.50 seconds would be required in the semi-finals to qualify for the final event.
He qualified for the world championship with his winning time of 49.11 seconds in Velenje, Slovenia, in June and it would be his fifth time representing South Africa at the biennial event.
“It could have been six, but I had to withdraw in 2003 because I was writing my matric exams,” he said.
His injury woes left him quite despondent last season but not enough to make him quit.
“It is really disheartening when nothing goes according to plan, even though you have put in the long hours. At times you begin to wonder why you keep on doing what you are doing when the easier option would be to just quit.
“But I will never be able to quit. I have to carry on until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, because I really want to win an Olympic medal. Only then will I have achieved all my goals.”
Van Zyl already boasted a gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the bronze from Daegu.
“I need an Olympic medal to complete my collection.”
Two other hurdlers would be lining up against Van Zyl at the championships after Cornel Fredericks qualified, at the South African Championship in Stellenbosch, with his winning time 48.78, and PC Beneke, who finished second in the same event, in a personal best 49.18.
Fredericks finished fifth in the 2011 final in Daegu in 49.12 -- his world championship debut.
In Moscow, Beneke would be the novice.