Leading Madibaz athletes Ischke Senekal and Garth Ellis will be looking to cement their growing reputations in South African athletics when they compete in the African Senior Championships in Durban from June 22 to 26.
The NMMU students have been included in the national team to take part in the event, with high jumper Ellis earning his South African colours for the first time.
This will be the third year Senekal, who will compete in the discus and shot put events, has earned national colours.
Ellis was thrilled to achieve one of the two goals he set himself for the season after leaping to a career-best 2.15 metres at the University Sport South Africa (USSA) champs in Polokwane earlier this year.
“I’m very happy with the selection because that was my goal for the year,” said the 24-year-old, who was born in George but attended school at Morewag Primary and Andrew Rabie in Port Elizabeth.
“I have always made the EP team and done well at national events, but have never made the SA team. So this is a big personal achievement and very satisfying for me.”
Ellis had a series of injuries last season and was delighted to achieve his best leap after those setbacks.
“To come back from those injuries and to jump a 2.15 was great. I’m very happy with my performances and hopefully I can keep it up and do something at the African champs.”
If he manages to emulate his USSA achievement, or perhaps better it, Ellis will send out a message of his talent as he looks ahead to two big events next year.
“Making the SA team for the first time means I have one foot in the door. Next year it is the World Student Games and the World Athletics Champs so I’m working towards qualifying for those events.”
Ellis paid tribute to the support he has received from his mother, while also acknowledging the input of coach Gerrie Posthumus.
“I know it’s a cliché, but my mother has always been my biggest supporter and she has always backed me at the competitions.
“I don’t have a high jump coach but Gerrie assists me with my speedwork and that has helped a lot.”
With several national meetings under her belt, the 23-year-old Senekal is keen to use the opportunity in Durban to continue improving her performances.
She set personal bests of 16.59m in the shot put and 56.86m in the discus in April this year.
“I’m very happy to have made the team and I will use the champs to try to get close to my personal bests, but it is difficult to peak twice in one year,” she said.
“But I definitely want to aim for a medal.”
Having come close to achieving qualifying distances for the Rio Olympics this year, Senekal is looking ahead to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“I just need to work hard for the next four years and my long-term goal is to qualify for the next Olympics.”
The former Brandwag pupil said she had been greatly assisted by coach Kobus van Zyl in achieving her goals.
“Kobus has been helping me for seven years now. I’m happy with my form at the moment and am looking forward to the African champs to see what I can do.”
By Coetzee Gouws