29 Aug, 2012

Getting Closer and Closer

Getting Closer and Closer


It’s been a busy start to the year for Elroy. In mid-February he won the South African Cross-country Trials, then jetted off to Istanbul, Turkey for the IAAF World Indoor Champs in early March, where, he made it to the final of the 3000m, finishing in 7:48.64 to break the SA Indoor record. A week later he was second-best SA finisher at the CAA Africa Cross-country Championships in Cape Town. Just two days later, he was back on the track at the Stellenbosch leg of the Yellow Pages series, going after the 13:20 IAAF A standard qualifying time for the 5000m for London.


Admittedly, Elroy’s personal best is only 13:25.09, so he has some serious work to do if he wants to get to London, but the way he is going after that mark is what makes people think he can do it, even if he did – quite understandably – fade a bit in the middle of the race in Stellenbosch.


“I maybe started a bit fast and my hamstrings really felt it after a while. I’m still feeling the cross-country in my legs and haven’t got my rhythm back yet,” said Elroy, having just run 13:25.50, less than a second off his PB, and finishing second to Gladwin Mzazi. “Still, I think I can go faster if I rest up now, then work on getting my pace and endurance right to go for 64 seconds per lap. I was close today, and I know I can do it.”



Much is expected from Gladwin Mzazi after his recent performances in the 5000m. In Stellenbosch, he initially looked a bit off the pace, then joined Elroy Gelant up front to chase that 13:20 qualifier, and eventually outsprinted his tiring countryman to win the race in 13:24.50, the sixth-fastest ever by a South African, and take nearly six seconds off his PB!


Gladwin and training partner Steven Mokoka, who missed the race while recovering from a minor injury, have made it known that they are chasing the 5000m qualifying mark. In the Yellow Pages Interprovincial in Bellville on 3 March, he and Steven really went for it, but a strong south-easter blew away their chances. Still, the two gave the crowd a huge thrill with a sprint finish that Gladwin won.


After his PB in Stellenbosch, Gladwin said, “I really wanted to go for the qualifier, but my body just did not respond in the first 2km. I’m very happy with my PB, but I need to go faster if I want to get to London. I think if Steven had been here today, all three of us would have done it.”



Having been to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and four IAAF World Champs meets, LJ van Zyl has both the ability and the experience to bring back a medal from London. He took bronze in his specialist event at the World Champs in South Korea last year, then anchored the 4x400m relay team to silver, and also finished fifth in Beijing and first in Melbourne. And what’s more, he says he owes it to himself to be on the podium in London.


“I've won medals at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and African Championships, so what I really want now is an Olympic medal. I was fifth last time and want to do well again, but first I must qualify, then get to the final, and to do that I need to be running consistently under 48 seconds.”


To qualify for London, LJ has to run 49.50 seconds, and with a PB of 47.66, the SA record he ran twice last year, he feels the qualifying mark is within his grasp. However, he has still changed his approach this year. “Last year I was in top shape in April and May, but this year I want to shift those six weeks to reach top shape at the Olympics.” LJ says he will also be running a few 400m races, having run 44.86 second in Germiston last year, a mere 0.28 seconds off the national record. “If I can go a little faster in the 400m, I know I can bring my time down even more over the hurdles.”