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UP 100m hurdler Rikenette Steenkamp recently made a heroic comeback from the sidelines after struggling with a recurring foot problem. Steenkamp was sidelined after undergoing surgery to remove an extra bone in her foot that had been causing her discomfort for quite some time, preventing her from running. She went through rigorous rehabilitation and hard training to return to the track, and this culminated in Steenkamp running a Varsity Athletics record time of 13.24s at the Varsity Athletics meeting in Potchefstroom on Friday, 3 March. Steenkamp spoke to Perdeby about the long journey back.
How were you injured, and how did it lead to you needing a two-year break? I was in Grade 12 in 2010 so I struggled with a few injuries back then as well…and then it went very well [through] 2013 and 2014 [when] I won the African Championships and the National Championships. And then the next year my ankle just started to give me problems and we didn’t know what it was, nothing happened. It wasn’t like I hurt it at training or anything like that, it just started to get sore. I couldn’t train throughout the whole of 2015...I went for an MRI and they didn’t pick up anything, then I went to a podiatrist and he said he wanted to do an x-ray, and then they saw that I had an extra bone in my ankle. So I’d been running with it and it had gotten pinched…So they had to get it out, so [in January] 2016 I decided “let’s just do it”. I went for an operation and I had four weeks [of] bed rest, and [I] had a process of two months going through rehab, and had to learn to walk properly again…But I decided to start training again because I love it, so I started with a new coach in October last year.
What do you think your future holds for you? For me something that’s very important, as cliché as it may sound, is to enjoy the journey, and to enjoy the processes of reaching those goals. In the 100m [sprint], the 10 second barrier is the barrier to break, with the 100m hurdles it’s the 13 second barrier, and I think to be able to do that would be awesome [especially] for South African hurdles because we need to break that barrier. But I’m not in the prediction game, but to know that it is possible, I believe it is.
Winning a national track event after coming back from a two-year absence is quite an amazing feat, how did you feel after the win? Last year I told my parents [that] the day I run the 100m hurdles again is going to be a miracle, so that’s how I felt, like [I was] incapable of doing it back then. I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness. I’m a believer so I also thank God and I give Him all the glory, and He’s writing a story that’s bigger than I can understand […] because it doesn’t make sense coming back after two years and running a personal best.
What motivation would you give to other athletes who find themselves in an injury situation similar to the one that you found yourself in? I think in that time, nobody sees you [or] misses you…and that feeling of [being] forgotten is very bad, but to get your identity in that moment, to say [to yourself], “You know what? I love what I do”, and to start training again because you love it…And just believe in yourself [because] I think sometimes you’ll reach a point where only you believe in yourself, and that’s something you need to hold onto on the inside. So I would say keep your head up [and] speak positively over your body.
Photo: Image provided.