Fourie aim­ing to build on 2012 mo­men­tum

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — South African high hur­dles record-holder Le­hann Fourie hopes to take the con­fi­dence and mo­men­tum from his 2012 sea­son through to this year’s cam­paign in an ef­fort to reach the fi­nal at the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Moscow, Rus­sia, in Au­gust.

“It will be im­por­tant for me to show that I can fol­low up from last year,” Fourie said this week.

“It is easy to be an un­der­dog, and no­body really knows about you, then you have noth­ing to lose.

“Now that there are more eyes on you it be­comes more dif­fi­cult, but the pres­sure is some­thing that mo­ti­vates you to run faster.”

The 2012 Lon­don Olympic Games turned out to be a wa­ter­shed event for Fourie when, against all odds, he fea­tured in the fi­nal of the men’s 110 me­tres hur­dles.

Over-trained and un­der-pre­pared, he went into the global show­piece with no ex­pec­ta­tions of mak­ing the fi­nal.

Com­pet­ing in the fi­nal rein­vig­o­rated the 25-year-old’s ca­reer and he went on to break the na­tional record at the Di­a­mond League meet­ing in Bel­gium in Septem­ber, shav­ing 0,02 sec­onds off fel­low South African Shaun Bownes’s pre­vi­ous mark.

His new-found form was a far cry from the topsy turvy build-up to the Olympics as his prepa­ra­tions were hin­dered by in­jury.

“I could have run bet­ter. The Olympic Games was my first race in a long time,” he said.

“If my year worked out dif­fer­ently I would have run faster un­til the Games, but I am happy that I was able to break the record af­ter­wards.”

Fourie made a solid start in his prepa­ra­tions for the Games, lay­ing a solid base and fin­ish­ing sev­enth in the men’s 60 me­tres hur­dles fi­nal at the World In­door Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Is­tan­bul, in March.

“At the be­gin­ning of the sea­son you think it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore you qual­ify for the Olympic Games — you are in good shape and you just have to run,” Fourie said.

How­ever, the pres­sure mounted when he picked up an in­jury which kept him off the track for two months. Re­turn­ing to train­ing, he had just three weeks to meet South Africa’s qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard.

“Af­ter eight weeks with­out train­ing, I had to start rac­ing again and I pushed my body so hard to run in three to four races per week.”

He nev­er­the­less went on to breathe new life into his ca­reer.

Fourie be­lieved the roller-coaster year he ex­pe­ri­enced would hold him in good stead this sea­son.

“At the world cham­pi­onships it is im­por­tant to get into the fi­nal and I hope to be in the po­si­tion to be fit enough to be able to com­pete.

“I was so tired in the Olympic fi­nal — just two hours be­fore, I had run in the semi-fi­nal. Phys­i­cally and men­tally I wasn’t ready for it.

“My life has changed a bit be­cause I’ve found some mo­ti­va­tion for my ath­let­ics and even though things aren’t go­ing so well in SA [in terms of ath­let­ics] I am mo­ti­vated to carry on at my own pace,” he said.

Af­ter the eu­pho­ria of the Games and his record break­ing run in Bel­gium, Fourie had a long rest as he re­turned to SA to recharge.

De­spite his achieve­ments in 2012, he is still strug­gling to find funds to sus­tain his dream of clinch­ing sil­ver­ware at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He also did not re­ceive any fi­nan­cial re­ward for im­prov­ing the South African and African record.

The SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (Sascoc) has, how­ever, thrown him a life­line by in­clud­ing him in the Op­er­a­tion Ex­cel­lence (Opex) pro­gramme, which pro­vides fi­nan­cial and coach­ing sup­port to prospec­tive medal win­ners in Rio.

“I didn’t run for money, but it would have been nice to think that I would get some­thing out af­ter what I’ve put in,” he added.

“Ath­let­ics is down in South Africa and for com­pa­nies it’s about what the peo­ple want to see and there aren’t many ath­let­ics meet­ings.

“It is a vi­cious cir­cle, but Opex helps a lot and it is a good sys­tem be­cause they don’t just give you money, they look at ev­ery­thing you need to run faster.”

Fourie re­turns to South Carolina in the U.S. next week where his prepa­ra­tions for the world cham­pi­onships will start in earnest.— Sapa.

PHOTO: GETTY

2013 is set to be a big year for South African hur­dling cham­pion Le­hann Fourie.

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