No hurdle too high for Rogail Joseph who is packing for Paris

By Karien Jonckheere

Rogail Joseph added her name to the list of automatic qualifiers for the Paris Olympics at the SA Athletics Championships in Pietermaritzburg last week.

But it wasn’t until she was called in for a dope test that she realised she had achieved the qualifying mark.

The 24-year-old finished second in the 400m hurdles behind Zeney Geldenhuys in a time of 54.84 which meant she’d dipped under the required 54.85 by one hundredth of a second.

That was well under the 55.39 she ran to take gold at the recent African Games in Ghana where she had the honour of securing South Africa’s 100th medal of the event.

It’s still sinking in that she’ll be packing her bags for Paris in around three months’ time.

“It’s still unbelievable for me to think that I’m an Olympian and I’m so proud of myself now I know that there is even more in store for me,” she told Modern Athlete.

Joseph said both she and her family were in tears after the race. “They were crying and my family can’t stop talking about it. They are really proud of me,” she explained.

Speaking about the race itself, the coaching science student explained: “It was one tough race and really competitive. It was one of the best races in my life and the first time I came so close with the first place [at senior nationals].”

Joseph did indeed push Geldenhuys for much of the race, with the winner being full of praise for her rivals.

“You can’t always just go into a race and think I’m going to run and win by 100 metres so it is very exciting to know that there are girls pushing me because without them it’s difficult to run great times,” said Geldenhuys.

“I think it’s great to know that the juniors are coming up and that the women’s 400m hurdles in South Africa is growing.

“They keep you on your toes because you know it’s anybody’s race… the race isn’t over until you’re over that finish line and it’s fun to know that it’s a fight.”

While Joseph grew up in Worcester in the Western Cape, where she described her community as a rough one where gangsterism is rife, she made the move to Potchefstroom to study and train and that’s made all the difference. While she admits to missing family and friends back home, she knows the move has been worth it to pursue her passion.

As for what the next few months hold, Joseph is headed to the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas from 4-5 May, where the South Africans are looking to qualify their relay teams for the Olympics, and will then look to gain experience in Europe.

“The goal is to run a PB of 53.9,” she said. “I know it’s possible with God next to me.”

Teen talent Ramokgopa making her mark in senior ranks

By Karien Jonckheere

Tumi Ramokgopa admitted the nerves kicked in when she lined up for the 400m hurdles at the final ASA Grand Prix meet of the season in Johannesburg last week. At just 16 years old, it was only her third race against senior athletes, she explained.

But the talented teen needn’t have worried. She stormed through the field to win in a time of 57.84 seconds, just six-hundredths of a second off the personal best she set a few days before.

That personal best sees her currently sitting top in the world in the under-18 ranks and fourth on the under-20 list for the 400m hurdles.

The Paris Olympics will come too soon for Ramokgopa, but she’s set her sights firmly on the World Junior Championships in Peru this August.

“I won’t lie, I’m shocked, but I’m proud of myself. I was scared before I ran because I was like: ‘Yoh, I’m running with seniors, I’m running with women,’” but you know, sometimes age doesn’t matter so I gave it my all. And I’m just grateful to God for giving me the strength,” said a thrilled Ramokgopa after her race at UJ.

Asked what her goal for the season is, the Prestige College Hammanskraal student explained: “I’m going for the SA [junior] record in the 400m hurdles and I want to see myself at World Juniors.”

Ramokgopa is coached by George Bradley who sees plenty of potential in his young charge, thanks to her impressive work ethic.

“Her main qualities that make me excited about her future in the sport are more related to her dedication, work ethic and already having a maturity about her,” said Bradley.

“For example, I was nervous about her racing against seniors in her first season doing 400m hurdles in 2023, as she is so used to winning. But she has shown that she can race ‘like a street-fighter’ if necessary – not only a great hurdle form but real substance. Some of the training for the long hurdles can be brutal. We minimise it due to her age, but she does it with zero complaining.”

Bradley explained that Ramokgopa has progressed from the sprint hurdles to the longer event with relative ease.

“Every year she is stronger, and she has developed a tremendous instinct as a hurdler, being able to make adjustments during a race if necessary.

“Tumi is an absolute pleasure to coach as she has an ingrained work ethic, strong listening skills and yet has an independent streak which just improves her ability to complete the assignment.”

As for just how far the talented teen can go, Bradley reckoned: “What she can achieve really depends on her continued focus and ability to avoid the typical distractions of her age group. Personally, I believe she can get right to the top, not only in SA, but in the world. So much depends on her path the moment she leaves school.”

Photo by Cecelia van Bers


Testing day for Van der Walt while Reinstorf remains hungry for improvement

Zeney van der Walt put her body to the ultimate test, running the 400m hurdles and 400m just over two hours apart at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Monday night. The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist first booked a place in the semifinals of the 400m hurdles by finishing fifth in her heat in a time of 55.21. Only the top four gained automatic qualification, but her time was quick enough to see her through as one of the fastest losers. Not long after Van der Walt was back on the track for the 400m semifinal, where she finished in eighth place in 51.54

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“I’m tired, but I’m happy to have been part of the semifinals of the 400m,” she said after completing her mammoth task for the day. Asked if she was still happy with the decision to double up in both events, she added: “Yes definitely. We’re using this as a stepping stone here in a year where I can challenge myself physically and mentally.”

As for what she did between the two races to recover, Van der Walt explained: “My coach had a recovery strategy just by keeping my legs cold, ice bath, and then just run-throughs.” Focus now shifts to Tuesday’s 400m hurdles semifinals. “I must go out and give it my all, because it’s all or nothing, so I’m looking forward to the race. It’s going to be tough but I’m in for that.”

Earlier in the evening, Miré Reinstorf found it tough going in pole vault qualification. The 21-year-old went into the event with a personal best of 4.15m – which she achieved on her way to winning the world junior title in 2021, but the opening height of the competition was set at 4.20m, which she failed to clear on all three attempts.

“I was prepared for it. I knew it was my PB by 5cm so I had to mentally prepare for that. So I told my coach yesterday, I actually forgot about the fact that it is my PB, I’m just going to go for it, give it my all,” said Reinstorf. “I really think I did, I put in a lot of work and I think there wasn’t anything else I could do and it was very close… but it was a very good experience and I think this just motivates me to work harder so that I can qualify for the next championships.”

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