‘An incredible experience’

2012-08-09 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG-BORN Andre Olivier spoke about his failure to make it through to the 800-metre final after finishing fifth in the third, but fastest of the semi-finals on Tuesday night.

“I got caught up in the back, not where I wanted to be, so had to go to plan B. With 250 to go I made a move but I wasn’t strong enough,” said 22-year-old Potchefstroom student who ran one minute, 45,44 seconds behind heat winner Ethiopian Mohammed Aman.

Aman’s 1:44,34 was the fastest qualifier of the night and pulled Timothy Kitum and Nick Symmonds (U.S.) through to the final.

“Looking at my personal best I could have qualified as the fastest loser at least,” Olivier said.

It has been an inspiring journey for Olivier, who was told to give up running due to a stress fracture of the foot in 2009.

“Four months later, I was back running,” said the youngster, who remembers training with his father, Andre Snr, on a tough hilly circuit close to their house in Hayfields. “There was this massive 400-metre-long hill and Polly Shortts that we ran up,” said the Pelham Primary School graduate. “It gave me strength. Whenever we ran hilly cross country I would smash everyone. “We still have family and friends in Pietermaritzburg.”

In 2001, work took banker Andre Snr, his wife Vanda, who is an air hostess with a local airline, up to Johannesburg. It was then that JJ Smit took over 11-year-old Andre’s coaching at Kempton Park High school.

He now studies at Potchefstroom University where former national middle-distance champion, and current SA two-mile record holder, Jean Verster, has taken over the mentoring role.

“We had to look at things very carefully and planned it very fine,” said Olivier. “I think he will be a bit disappointed in the way I ran. I don’t think he will worry much about the time, but the first 400 was just not so good.

“It’s been a good season,” continued Olivier, “but I have to go back to Potch with my coach and put in a good winter season for next year’s Worlds [in Moscow].”

Although he ran 1:44,41 in March 2009, the other nine of his top 10 performances, including his personal best of 1:44,29 in last month’s Monaco Diamond league, were all run in 2012.

“It’s [the Olympics] been an incredible experience: maybe in the semis I could have run technically better, but it’s been great. The people are awesome. There’s a crowd of 80 000 people sitting here,” said Olivier.

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