The stuff of an Olympic fairytale

2012-08-05 08:59

Of the three women representing South Africa in the Olympic Marathon, Rene Kalmer is the only one with Games experience having represented the country at Beijing 2008.

She will represent South Africa in the 42km race along with Irvette van Blerk and Tanith Maxwell today.
Their race starts at 12pm (SA time) today.

Kalmer, who competed in the 1 500m at the China Olympics, goes into the London event carrying a form that saw her win every 10km race she has competed in between March and June.

City Press caught up with Kalmer and Van Blerk this week as they were doing a walkabout at the shopping mall opposite the Athletes Village.

“(The Olympics) is a totally different ball game. I ran 1 500m for more than 15 years but I needed a change,” Kalmer said of her transition to a longer distance.

The 31-year-old Central Gauteng runner said preparations for this year’s Olympics went well. “Now we are here for business.

“We were in training in Twickenham and everything went well there. We moved into the village on Monday and the vibe is good,” said Kalmer, who was a pace setter during the London Marathon in April.

A big fan of Great Britain and world record holder Paula Radcliffe, Kalmer said she was looking forward to race against her idol.

“It’s really heartbreaking (Radcliffe’s injury) as I know how much this race really meant for her. I was looking forward to run in the same race as her. I’m sure she’ll bounce back.”

For Van Blerk not only the Olympics but also the marathon is a completely new experience.
Her story is the stuff of fairytales.

The 25-year-old had featured mostly in the 10km races and she ran her first 42km in the London Marathon in April to breach the 2:37.00 Olympic qualifying standard.

She finished a respectable 18th in 2:33.41.

Said Van Blerk: “I’m excited and nervous. London was different in April; it was rainy. The weather is great now. I have put in some mileage in my training and I’m ready for Sunday (today).”

Van Blerk said the two gold medals from swimmers Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh were motivating.

She said having her fiancée, 400m hurdles athlete LJ van Zyl, at the Games also helped her to ease the nerves.

“It’s good to have LJ here, we shared the opening ceremony together. However, I’m sharing a room with Rene during the Games.”

Van Zyl failed to advance to his event on Friday.

Meanwhile, Maxwell has also had a few races before she made the team.

She qualified for the London event at the Rotterdam Marathon before the qualifying cut-off date in April when she finished 14th in 2:36:47.

She won the Constantia Village 15km race in Cape Town in a personal best time of 53:22.

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