Tokyo Olympics

SA veteran star Wenda Nel leaves Tokyo with a smile: 'I gave it my all'

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South African athlete Wenda Nel
South African athlete Wenda Nel
Roger Sedres/Gallo Images/Getty

South African hurdle Wenda Nel says she gave her all in her final Olympic Games as she missed out on the final of the women's 400m hurdles on Monday.

Nel finished in seventh place in the third semi-final of the women's one-lap hurdles event in a time of 56.35.

America's Sydney McLaughlin won the semi-final as she stopped the clock in 53.03, as Panama's Gianna Woodruff finished second in 54.22 - with the top two qualifying for the final.

Nel, who ran in lane 8, couldn't catch up with the star-studded semi-final field and had to race in difficult conditions as the rain poured down at Olympic Stadium.

The 33-year-old admitted that she was surprised by the rain but insists that it didn't stop her from giving her best.

"It was quite a surprise, wasn't sure where the rain came from but it's not like I haven't run in the rain before. I went into this one saying, 'I have nothing to lose'," Nel told reporters.

"I gave it my all and tried to see what I had left in me. The standard of the 400m hurdles has shifted two, three steps up.

"To be on the standard as these girls in these Games is crazy. I gave myself a chance and I knew it would've been tough to get into the final. I do believe in miracles and in this sport, you're not going to drop two seconds in a day."

Nel acknowledges that while it hasn't been the best preparation leading up to this year's rescheduled Games, she is grateful for the opportunity.

"I'm quite a positive person so I definitely gave myself a chance although I knew my preparation wasn't a hundred percent as I would've wanted it to be," said Nel.

"It's been a challenging year and a half with Covid and I had some injuries in 2019, so I was just extremely grateful to compete and qualify for the Games. Being able to be in the blocks at this year's Games has been a true blessing.

"My experience at these Games has been unbelievable. The difference between this and Rio was that I was more calm and I had freedom, I took more in and I didn't put too much pressure on myself," she said.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed in the result, you always wish to go home with a better time but these last few months have been challenging."

Nel confirmed that this will be her final Olympics but hopes to take this experience and help develop the future talent of South Africa.

"I had fun and enjoyed myself, gained experience for the next Championships. I will take it with me in my journey and share my experience with the youth and I really had fun," said Nel.

"I'm going home with a smile on my face and knowing that I've been at another Olympics and I'm just honoured to represent South Africa.

"After tonight, I will not say the book is closed but I am moving towards retirement. We'll see in the next few months, where the road will take me but maybe not another Olympic Games but maybe another World Championships."

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympic Games for Sport24

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