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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I want that 1:44.70' - Edmund du Plessis looks to nail Olympic qualifier at CAA Africa Champs

Updated: Jun 23

After three-time champion Tshepo Tshite moved up in distance to focus on the 1500m at the end of 2022, it left the 800m wide open for a new king to ascend the throne. And over the last two seasons, Edmund du Plessis has emerged as that somewhat unlikely ruler of the two-lap race after claiming the SA titles in both 2023 and 2024. But it is what the 22-year-old has done this season that has many believing he has come of age and is ready to dominate the event in South Africa while making an impact on the global stage.

"I don't know (what the secret is). I guess you just grow into it. I was still a junior when I came here in 2022. It was difficult running with the senior guys because there's not that much competition in the junior level, but at senior level it gets serious. So I think it takes a few years to adjust and then you also need to grow into your body," said the man who also set a 48.29 400m PB this year.

du Plessis beats Mohlosi to the line to defend his SA 800m title. Photo Credit: University of Pretoria Health Sciences.

"I'm with another coach now. I have started training with Ilze Wicksell. We do a lot of speed endurance - a lot of lactic sessions and speed sessions. The previous three years with my other coach we built a lot of base with 1500m sessions. So I think my base is really good. The training builds and builds and builds and all the training you did in previous seasons starts to pay off now," he told #TheTopRunner during the Athletics South Africa (ASA) Senior Track and Field Championships in Pietermaritzburg in April where he won the title and also set a new lifetime best of 1:44.92 on his way to winning the gold medal ahead of Kabelo Mohlosi and Renier de Villiers.

In fact, this year alone, the medical student from the University of Pretoria has improved on his 800 lifetime best no less than three times and only just missed out on that automatic Olympic qualification standard by two tenths of a second. With the qualification window for #Paris2024 closing at the end of June, du Plessis remains in hot pursuit of a maiden Olympic birth.

du Plessis poses with coach Ilze Wicksell and training partner Charne Swart who won the women's 800m title at the 2024 ASA Senior Track and Field Championships. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

For example, as South Africa celebrated Youth Day on June 16, this young man was halfway around the world running a 1:46.04 to claim second place at the Folksam Grand Prix in Sweden. This week he will be in action at the African Athletics Championships in Cameroon alongside Mohlosi, where he will be hoping for some of the faster East Africans in the competition to pull him to that elusive 1:44.70.

"I think I would be really happy if I had got the qualifying time. So I think I'm gonna chase that time now. Stretch the seasons as long as possible and see what happens. The window closes on 30 June so I hope to get it. It's a lot easier if someone goes out at 1:42/1:43 pace and you just stick. Even if you get fifth in a fast race - it's fine. I don't care about the position. I want that 1:44.70. I won the SA's so positions don't matter anymore, it's all about the time."

The 23rd CAA Africa Championships take place in Douala Cameroon from the 21st to the 26th of June. du Plessis goes in the men's 800m on Saturday 22 June.

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