Road to London: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi

2012-04-05 13:14

Cape Town - In the fourth in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to South African athlete, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.

Road to London: Bridgette Hartley

Road to London: Kate Woods

Road to London: Cameron van der Burgh

GRAEME JOFFE: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, first of all pronunciation, we’ve argued about it for years, have I got it right?
MBULAENI MULAUDZI: Ja, ja, you are trying, yes very close.

JOFFE: Thanks very much for your time my brother. Does your name stand for anything?
MULAUDZI: Ja, it does, it says kill me. That is the meaning of my name. On the other hand I have another name, “Tongai”, which means leader.

JOFFE: Well, you are one of our leading medal hopes for London. How your Olympic preparations going? I know last year was tough, you had the achilles and hamstring injuries.
MULAUDZI: Ja, this year everything is going very well. I started preparing last year in October and since then I have been training very well without any injuries. Two weeks ago, I ran in Potchefstroom, my first race after such a long time and I did a 1.46 which was easy for me to do that. So, I am just hoping the preparations can continue to go smoothly. 

JOFFE: What is the 800m standard qualifying time for London?
MULAUDZI: The standard is 1.45.

JOFFE: So it is just about a second that you need to shave off?
MULAUDZI: Ja, just about a second.

JOFFE: Your build up from now until London, is it mainly local competitions or are you going to be going overseas for a while.
MULAUDZI: For now, I will race locally and then, mid May I will be going to Europe to do a few meetings in May, June and July. So, I will be doing the European circuit there, try and sharpen myself up for the Games. 

JOFFE: Kenya’s David Rudisha has been in great form and is the current world record holder in the 800m. Is he your biggest challenge to possibly even winning gold in London ?
MULAUDZI: Ja, I mean Rudisha is a very strong competitor and whenever he is on the track he is running faster, so he is one of the guys we need to watch very closely. The rest of the African guys, they just run normal times, which anyone can run, if it is someone who is in good shape. I think Rudisha is the only one who is very strong.

JOFFE: You got a silver medal in Athens in 2004 but things didn’t go according to plan in Beijing?
MULAUDZI: The way things happened in Athens, I was very excited getting that silver medal and then 2008, it was just unlucky. I got sick and I was not able to perform at my best. But now in 2012, I think I am going to be in really good shape and then I am ready to be on the podium.

JOFFE: Great news. If we go back to the 2009 World Champs,  that is the same year, I think, that you ran your personal best, 1.42.86 do you think that you can get back to those kind of times?
MULAUDZI: Ja, I mean, right now my training has changed very much and then I have been training very hard and then I have been doing things very differently. You know in training, you know, things I didn’t do in the past, we try to rectify all of my mistakes, you know, just for me to get stronger so I think I am going to be able to get back into the 1.42 shape and even run faster than PB or maybe try to get the South African record.

JOFFE: Your daily training at the moment, are you spending a lot of time in the gym and on the track?
MULAUDZI: I am spending more time at the gym which I didn’t do in the past, you know trying to strengthen my hamstring and calves.  I spend more time on the track as well. I do 8 sessions in a week, so everything is looking good.

JOFFE: Hezekiel Sepeng, another one of our all time great 800m runners, do you guys chat a lot?
MULAUDZI: Ja, I mean, most of the time before the race, you know, always in the past we used to talk about the tactic that is going to be used in the race, who to watch, how to run the race, and even now, I just call him sometimes after a good session and we just talk about it, just to get someone’s opinion, we talk a lot.

JOFFE: Do you have a set strategy or does it change for each race depending on who’s competing and if there’s a pacemaker?
MULAUDZI: Normally we know who the pacemaker is going to be, you know like in Europe, there is always a pacemaker in the race, but here locally, sometimes if there is no pacemaker, I will always be willing to take the pace myself. I always feel comfortable about if I am running locally here, but in Europe it is a different story. They have a lot of guys, about eight guys in the race who can run 1.43, so you just need to be careful and not to just take the pacemaker. Then you don’t need to follow him too hard, you just need to give him some space just to be able to finish very well at the end.

JOFFE: Life after athletics for Mbulaeni Mulaudzi?
MULAUDZI: I do think about life after athletics, I really need to be involved in athletics and yes I will have some kids to develop especially in my area in Limpopo. So, I think I am going to go back to Limpopo when I am done with my career and then just start some developments in my rural area there.

JOFFE: Fantastic. Mbulaeni, thanks again for your time. All the best for the London Olympic Games and we hope to see you come back with that gold medal.
MULAUDZI: Thank you very much.
Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Mbulaeni Mulaudzi came to prominence in 2004 when he won the gold medal at the World Indoor Championships, and reached the podium at the 2004 Athens Olympics in winning the silver medal. At the 2006 World Indoor Championships he won a silver medal, and repeated the feat two years later at the 2008 edition. He represented South Africa at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but was knocked out of the 800m at the semi-final stage. He made the 800m final at four consecutive World Athletics Championships, and won his first gold medal in the event in 2009.