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.”