L.J. van Zyl hurtles into the form books

2011-06-03 00:00

L.J. VAN ZYL’S streak of incredible 400 m hurdle performances continued in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Tuesday when he ran his fourth sub- 48-second race, leaving a classy field in his wake.

The 25-year old equalled his personal best and national record (47,66 sec) in beating Britain’s David Green (48,47) and Johnny Dutch, who was third in 48,72 seconds.

This season has seen a change in tactics by the Tukkies athlete, who has blasted from the gun and in many cases has still managed a finishing kick from the final hurdle. The concern has been that he might lose form before the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August.

Said Van Zyl, who will be competing in New York on 11 June, “I trained very hard before the start of the season and I hope I can stay in good shape until the World Championships.”

Sunette Viljoen continued her build towards the World Championships and scored a qualifying 61,72 metre third-round throw of the javelin, but will need to get back to the 66-metre level of her personal best if she is to make an impression in Daegu.

The only event this week is the master’s monthly Mini Meet, which is held from 7 am tomorrow at Chatsworth Stadium. There is a range of events from 100 m through to five-kilometre and 10 km runs or walks on offer. All master athletes over 35 years of age are welcome to take part in the meeting. Details from Jodi at

031 564 6709

The figures on the 2011 Comrades make some interesting reading.

In November last year 19 617 runners had entered the up run, which would provide a minimum income of R5,3 million. The Comrades Marathon Association have said that entries account for only about 15% of the budget, which gives an indication of the size of the Comrades race budget at over R35 million.

Around 16 500 runners then qualified to run, which is a drop of 15,8%. This was further reduced by 11,5% by those who failed to register and dropped again by another 8,2% for those who registered but pulled out before the start. Of the 12 637 runners who started, 11 068 finished the course, which is only 56% of the initial entry and gives an 87% finishing rate.

Only 14 runners beat the Wally Hayward cut-off, with the first 10 getting gold medals.

Silver medals were awarded to 3,8% of the starters, with 17% earning the sub-nine-hour Bill Rowan,

These figures make for an interesting comparison with the mid- 1980s. In the 1985 up run there were 10 109 entries and 8 149 finishers with only nine of the top 10 gold getting under Wally Hayward’s six-hour mark. Silver medals were earned by 6,4% of the entrants, and 26,5% would have been awarded Bill Rowan medals. Those days required a sub-eleven-hour finish, which 88% of the starters achieved.

As that race was held in the days of sporting isolation, it is probable that this year’s 1 200 international runners account for the increase in the competition at the sharp end of the race, but it is clear that South African runners across the board are not performing today at the same level as their counterparts did 20-30 years ago. Times and fitness levels have changed. However, it would seem that the attrition rate remains about the same at 12-14% for the up run. So now it’s time to plan for the 87th Comrades on Sunday, 3 June, 2012. This will be a down run where traditionally more runners will achieve their goal.

This year 120 runners were accommodated in the athletes’ village of KZN Athletics and Department of Sport and Recreation. This is for runners from disadvantaged areas who have a sub-three-hour marathon and earn minimal wages or are unemployed. A sub-three-hour marathon is traditionally accepted as the credential for a silver medal, which only 18 of the runners achieved. How­ever, only 12 of the runners failed to complete the course.

Clearly this has massive potential for development. Indeed, finding 120 sub-three-hour marathoners who meet all other criteria is not only surprising but also an indication of how the sport in the province has failed to develop the potential that clearly exists. Given the funds that KZNA listed at the AGM as spent on development in 2010, it is not clear why the province is not achieving better performances at various national championships. Clearly a review is required of the development and excellence strategies, because the current direction is not delivering.

Pietermaritzburg’s Kharina Secondary school provided the most finishers in Saturday’s National Youth Run, which earned them a bonus of R10 000. Kharina has been the school with the most entries since the inception of the event four years ago. Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi was second, Bechet was third, Kwezi Primary was fourth and Velabahleke earned R2 000 for their fifth place.

In total 4 200 runners took part in the event, which has unfortunately lost much of its original initiative as a link for the youth to the spirit and tradition of the Comrades Marathon. The number of comrades and foreign runners taking part in the event now form a very small percentage compared with the first year, when it was well supported by Comrades enthusiasts.

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