Tshwane, South AfricaAfrican champion Louis Jacobus (LJ) van Zyl broke new ground when he set a South Africa national 400m Hurdles record at the Yellow Pages Series meet in Tshwane, near Pretoria, on Friday (25).
The heavy downpour and subsequent wet surface conditions an hour into the day’s programme did not deter Van Zyl. He got off to an aggressive starts and went on to clock 47.66 well ahead of African championships silver medallist Cornel Fredericks (49.61).
Firstly, Van Zyl improved his career best from 47.94 set in Monaco in 2009, and erased Llewellyn Herbert’s previous national record of 47.81set at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Van Zyl is now Africa’s third fastest 400m hurdler of all time, behind the 1996 and 1988 Olympic silver medallists Zambian Samuel Matete (47.10) and Senegal’s El Hadji Amadou Dia Ba (47.23) respectively.
“For more than four years, I have been chasing after this South Africa 400m hurdles record without success. It has come to me as a total surprise in my first race of the season,” said a breathless Van Zyl moments after the race.
“I owe my success to Cornel (Fredericks) who was running on the inside lane behind me. I could hear him catching up on the back straight as he starts pretty fast. So I really dug deep as I was running blind,” Van Zyl explained.
“I will now run a few 400m flat and try to improve my personal best of 45.82. Then I hope to make an impact at the Samsung Diamond League in Doha on 6 May,” Van Zyl revealed.
Hennie Kotze has coached van Zyl since 2001 and was delighted with his performance. “We agreed that his usual tactic of starting conservatively and surging in the last 150 metres was not yieldings the best results,” Kotze said.
“Now he goes out hard with a specific time targets for the fifth and eighth hurdles. Today it worked well. The challenge is to maintain the training levels and sustain the form throughout the year,” Kotze added.
Van Zyl is in line for the Rand 200,000 (more than 28,400 US Dollars) prize pot to be shared by all who set a national record during the Yellow Pages meets.
Other notable local performances were from the World junior Long Jump champion Luvo Manyonga (8.05m) and Africa junior Pole Vault champion Cheyne Rahme (5.10m). Namibian men’s 100m and women’s 400m sprinters Hitjivirue Kaanjuka (10.43) and Tjiperkapora Herunga (53.93) claimed their first victories of the year. Lebogang Phalula won th 1500m in 4:19.08 in a race where Caster Semenya, the World 800m champion, finished fourth clocking 4:24.68.