Catch me if you can is the challenge that Constant Pretorius (Tuks) will set his rivals in the 400m-hurdles tomorrow night during the Varsity Athletics Meeting at Tuks.
It is no idle threat. Pretorius who will be competing at the Commonwealth Games was the top male athlete during the first Varsity Athletics meeting at Tuks, winning in 50.16s. He has since improved his season’s best time to 49.72s, and he is confident of running even faster times. His best time is 49.28s.
Pretorius’s new found confidence sprouts from his performance at the South African Championships. He did not win, but he was the one that “ripped’ the race wide open by immediately running at a fast pace. His rivals only caught up with him with three hurdles to go.
As far as he is concerned, it was one of the most exciting 400m-hurdles races in a long time. Six athletes dipped under 49s. At last year’s national championships only three athletes did so.
“The national championships was the first time that I decided just to run and enjoy myself without worrying about my pace rhythm. It felt great. I was not tired afterwards. I am planning to do the same tomorrow night at the Varsity Athletics meeting. I might experiment a bit going over the last two hurdles. I believe that I have the ability to dip under 49 seconds. I just need to prove it to myself,” said the Tuks-hurdler.
Pretorius is of the opinion that once he or any of his rivals clock a sub 49 seconds time it will be like the proverbial dam wall breaking with them then consistently doing so.
“It is exciting to be part of the new generation of 400m-hurdles athletes. We are talented enough to keep South Africa’s proud tradition in the event going. All that needs to happen is one breakthrough race for us to do so.”
One of the most disconcerting statistics at the moment in South African men’s athletics is that the last time any South African 400m-hurdler has been able to dip under 49 seconds in a local race was in 2014. The last time it happened internationally was in 2016.
Tuks will have their work cut out to defend their title. They have just a 46-point lead on NWU after the first meeting, which means that the battle for Varsity supremacy is still far from won.
Danie Cornelius (TuksAthletics manager) is, however, quietly confident that his athletes will do what needs to be done to retain the title.
“During the national championships, most of our athletes have improved on their performances. For example, Thembo Monareng’s best time in the 100m is now 10.22s. At the first Varsity Athletics meeting, he ran 10.33s. The South African 100m-hurdles champion, Taylon Bieldt, is consistently running times of 13.70s. She is bound to clock a faster time. Maybe it is tomorrow.”
The Tuks Athletics team is nearly unchanged. Gezelle Magerman who missed the first meeting due to food poisoning has recovered. Cornelius is not a 100% sure whether Simone Weitz will be available.
By Wilhelm de Swardt