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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Nel aiming for Olympic final

South African 400m hurdles specialist Wenda Nel is brimming with confidence of putting a ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The Worcester born athlete is headed to her second Olympic Games after reaching the semi-final of her event in Rio. But the journey to Japan has not been without its challenges as Nel had to overcome injuries in order to make her dream a reality.

"Yes I am very excited. It's always an incredible honour to represent SA," said the athlete who is coached by Hennie Nel. "The past year has been an interesting journey. I’ve gone through different experiences and really grew a lot in terms of being an athlete and also my journey in life. I’m excited to have qualified for the Games and am currently getting the last bit of preparations in place to give my best at the Games,"said the 2016 African Champion.

Nel soars over a hurdle in the home straight on her way to Commonwealth Bronze. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

For Nel, the lessons she learnt during the 2016 Olympics and injuries she suffered over the past two years have taught her to be mentally strong. "I'm grateful to be going to my second Games. I believe one always gains experience from any opportunity in life," explains Nel, who represented South Africa in 2017 World Championships. " For starters, these Games will be like no Games before just based on the Covid-19 measures taking place. It will be a new experience for everyone. I believe that my mental preparation is better. I know what to expect from myself and how to execute my race plans better. I’m excited to implement what I’ve been working on and also to embrace the moment more," said the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist.

An emotional Nel stares at her bronze medal during the 2018 Games in Australia. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

"There will always be the risk of injuries in any sport. We can’t always control the outcome, but we can choose how to react to it. I believe in my journey dealing with injuries, it made me a mentally stronger athlete and I am also more grateful for every opportunity I get. Although I might have done it throughout my life, I’ve come to appreciate and celebrate small victories even more," she said. Despite the stiff competition in her discipline , Nel is optimistic about her chance of reaching the final. "There’s currently a huge step up in my event with regards to performances. It excites me to see how the ladies are encouraging each other to improve ourselves. I believe I am capable of being in the Olympic final and like I so often say, once you’re in a final, anything can happen," she concludes.

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