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UP hurdlers LJ van Zyl and Le Roux Hamman competed at the Rio Olympic Games. Van Zyl managed to finish fifth in the semi-finals, and first time Olympian Hamman finished seventh in his heat. Van Zyl was given lane three in his semi-final and was competing against a lineup with Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, Turkey’s Yasmani Copello and Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte. Van Zyl started the race with a steady pace over the first 250 m to keep up with the favourites and looked set to qualify for the final, but ran out of steam over the final stretch as Whyte and Culson made their move. Whyte won the semi-final with a time of 48.32 s and Van Zyl finished fifth with a time of 49 s. Van Zyl will now focus on the World Championships in London in 2017.
Van Zyl has expressed his desire to compete at the 2020 Olympics Games, and at the current age of 31, nears the end of his career. In an interview with Jacaranda FM earlier this year, Van Zyl spoke about his future plans and the possibility of retirement: “At my age, I have come to realise that I have to run every race as if it were my last one. Of retirement talk, it may still be a bit premature. There is still the World Champs next year in London and the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast. Fitness and form permitting, I would like to go out with another Commonwealth medal in Australia.”
Hurdles fans were reassured to see athletes like Hamman taking his stand to represent South Africa at his first Olympic Games. Hamman and Van Zyl trained together in the build up to the Rio Olympics at the UP High Performance Centre, and Van Zyl was one of the first to congratulate Hamman on his qualification for the Olympics. Hamman will continue the pursuit of bringing home the first gold 400 m hurdles Olympic medal since South Africa’s return to the Games.
Image: Mail and Guardian