Johannesburg - One of the most exciting rivalries will resume on Friday when LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks battles it out to become the South African 400-hurdles champion.
According to SuperSport.com, the two of them have been dominating the event since 2006 with both Tuks/HPC-athletes winning the title on four occasions. Van Zyl was victorious in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015 while Fredericks won in 2010 and 2012 through to 2014.
It would be foolish to predict who is going to come out tops this time round.
Van Zyl has competed in the 400-hurdles on two occasions this season. Winning at the Gauteng North Championship in a time of 50.09s while his winning time at the ASA Night Series-meeting in Cape Townwas 49.74s.
He is the first to admit his times are nothing to get excited about but added immediately that his aim for now is not to set the world alight by posting fast times.
“My aim is to be at my best when I start my international campaign. At the South African Championships the goal is to win the title whatever it takes,” said the South African record holder (47.66s).
Van Zyl could reach a unique milestone in Stellenbosch. If he runs a time faster than 49.50s it will be the 100th time he has done so. Should he run faster than 49 seconds it will be for a 66th time and if he runs faster than 48.50 it will be for the 23rd time.
The Tuks/HPC athlete is not quite sure how many national titles he has won.
“I think it might be six. I remember winning my first senior title way back in 2003 when I was still in matric at Grey College. One of the most special races was in 2011 in Durban when I won in 47.73s. Actually every title you win is special because each has its own unique story.
“Friday is going to be tough because we race the heats and the final on the same day. The same happened at the Gauteng North Championship. It makes for tricky racing. In the final I start off slightly slower than I usually would done to make sure that I still got something left in my legs for when it really mattered.”
Fredericks is the proverbial “dark horse”. It is not clear if has raced at all this season and in what form he is. He has been training in Bath, England under the guidance of Malcolm Arnold since last year and was planning to compete in one or two smaller races in England so as to just to get a feel for racing again but whether he did so is not clear.
2016 was supposed to be Fredericks big comeback year as an Achilles injury kept the Tuks/HPC-athlete out of action for most of last year. He only competed twice, once in London and once in Spain. Even though he qualified for the World Championships in Beijing he wisely decided to withdraw to avoid worsening a niggling hamstring injury.
Lindsay Hanekom (Tuks/HPC) can be the athlete who upset the “applecart” on Friday in the 400-hurdles final.
Last year’s under-23 champion makes no secret about his aspirations.
“I am not saying that I will beat them, but I am certainly going to do my best to do so. What counts in my favour is that I have nothing to lose. Both LJ and Cornel have titles and reputations to defend. For now I am just running to enjoy myself and that is a nice position to be in.”
It is interesting to note that Hanekom has managed to improve his time for the 400-hurdles by more than 10 seconds over the past four years. In his first ever 400-hurdles race he was timed at 63 seconds. This season he has already improved by 0.19s when he ran 49.81s at the Night Series-race in Cape Town.
Read the story on SuperSport.com