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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'I am so emotional and happy,' says van Zyl after qualifying for Tokyo 2021

South African marathon star Irvette Van Zyl is over the moon after smashing her personal best by over 2 minutes to qualify for the Olympic Games. Running in cold and wet conditions at Xiamen Tuscany Elite Marathon in Italy yesterday, the 33-year-old clocked 2:28:40 to finish 13th in a race where her Nedbank Running Club teammate Gerda Steyn broke (2:25:28) the 25-year South African Marathon record previously held by Colleen De Reuck.

Irvette van Zyl and Gerda Steyn (right) enjoyed great races in Italy and have qualified for Tokyo 2021. Photo Credit: Nedbank Running Club.

"I am ecstatic today," said an elated Van Zyl. "I am so emotional and happy. And today was a great day for South African Road Running. The weather wasn't great. It was wet, rainy and cold but in these conditions I talked a lot to myself to just try and stay positive and relax and stick to the plan to run 2:29." she explained.

The three-time Soweto Marathon champion says she faced the hurdles along the route as her muscles locked but she remained positive that she could dip under the 2:29:30 needed to qualify for #Tokyo2021. van Zyl says the lap route assisted her to reach her third Olympics games.

A jubilant van Zyl crosses the finish line in Italy. Photo Credit: Xiamen Tuscany Elite Marathon race.

"I really started to tighten up at 29km it felt like the everything was just so cold," she told #TheTopRunner."But running lap definitely helps because then I focused more on the laps and tried to forget about the distance. But during the last lap my calves were cramping like crazy. But I knew I was still on pace to run 2:29. So I just tried to push and just focus on every km. I only knew it was going to happen with 2km to go so then I was still in disbelief until I saw the clock and saw I can 2:28," said the woman who has now qualified to represent the country in a second consecutive Olympic marathon.

With the pressure of having to run an Olympic qualification time now out of the way, Van Zyl will now turn her focus to the SA Half Marathon Championship on 1 May in Port Elizabeth. "I will focus now on the SA Half marathon champs," explains the former Two Half Marathon winner. "Then probably from there me and Nick( Bester) will plan what's next. I think my ultimate goal is just to finish the Olympics and if I can run another sub 2:30 that will be a bonus," she concluded.

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