Johannesburg - Two years ago he surprised all and sundry as South Africa's lone medallist with his bronze-medal winning run in the men's 1 500m in Moscow. This time around Johan Cronje will have to live up to expectations at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing starting on Saturday.
Going into the previous world championships on the back of superb form, Cronje had hoped on at least making it into the 1 500m final.
“On the day of the final I planned my race to at least finish in fifth place and it was only in the last 100m that I realised that I was in with a chance,” Cronje said before his departure for Beijing.
“What can happen now is that I will not be running for anything less than third place, so I could be gunning for a medal which could backfire on me.
“There are many things that are going through your mind but in the end you have trust in your training and your own plan.”
Cronje produced a tenacious run in the 2013 final where he surged at the finish line posting a South African record of 3:36.83 for third place.
Kenyan Asbel Kiprop won comfortably in 3.36.28 with American Matthew Centrowitz getting his nose ahead of Cronje with 3:36.78.
The middle-distance ace will be going to his third World Championships not quite in the same form as he did at the previous edition.
His season’s best time of 3:36.34 is some way off the improved record time of 3:31.93 he set in Rieti shortly after the Moscow championships in 2013.
He believed his previous experiences on the biggest stage will hold him in good stead where he now has a clear idea of how to manoeuvre through the rounds.
“The previous championships was the first time I successfully got through all three rounds but it helps and the fact that you know how to prepare to make it through the rounds,” Cronje said.
“While it is a massive event, you should approach it as just another race to ensure it doesn’t intimidate and derail your plans.”
The 34-year-old will be looking to shake off the disappointment of missing out on a medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Cronje finished in fourth place just 0.05 seconds behind New Zealander Nic Willis in third place.
“Two years ago I had an idea of how the rounds would pan out and I was spot on every time, I once again have an idea of how things will unravel and if I am correct, it (his plans) will work,” he said.
The Bloemfontein athlete admitted he preferred tactical to fast-paced races which should be to his benefit at major competitions.
“In the pace races they go out fast and you try to keep up with them but you are running at max,” Cronje said.
“In a championship they will never go out that fast for me to jump off, so if I am among the front-runners it keeps me hungry.
“Once you fall behind it is as if that fight isn’t there anymore.”