• Thathe Msimango

Van Deventer concerned about lack of 1500m athletes in SA Olympic team

Olympian Juan Van Deventer is surprised not to see any South African 1 500m athletes named into the Tokyo Olympics squad. In the final squad announced by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee( SASCOC) yesterday, not a single runner managed to hit the 3:35:00 qualifying time to be on a plane to Japan. Van DeVenter who became the first South African to reach a 1 500m Olympic final back in Beijing 2008 is concerned that not one man was able to qualify to represent the country at #Tokyo2021.

"No, I didn't expect it all," he told #TheTopRunner. "There are a couple of guys capable of running the qualifying time over that distance. "It is worrying as you would expect someone to continue on the platform we laid. It would have been nice seeing upcoming athletes topping what I achieved. Not seeing any athlete in the distance at this year's Olympics is devastating. But I remain hopeful that in the future we will have athletes pushing for a spot and medals at the Olympics," said Van DeVenter, who runs for Nedbank Running Club.


van Deventer faces off against 2013 World Championship bronze medalist Johan Cronje and Jerry Matsau (back) at the 2013 SA Championships. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

The 3-time SA metric mile champion believes that the lack of athletes committed to running that distance is what makes it hard for South Africa to produce international stars. But he has high hopes for 2019 SA 1500m champion Ryan Mphahlele

"I don't think we necessary got it wrong at all. II think it's a lack of depth," explains Van DeVenter, who won a bronze medal over 1 500m distance at the 2008 African Championships. "You get one or two good guys but they fade all the way. I'm still hoping to see more guys coming out as long as they apply themselves and remain professional to the sport. Not too sure what happened to Ryan Mphahlele of Tembisa this year but I trust that guy to do well in that distance and compete on the world stage. He has a wonderful talent," he said.

van Deventer is no stranger to winning. He was also crowned University of Johannesburg sportsman of the year during his time there. Photo Credit: Juan van Deventer.

Having now stepped up to run ultra marathons, the winner of last year's Om Die Dam 50km race also suggests that the nation's 1500m men need to work harder in training. "I think it starts from both the athlete's and coach's sides. They both need to be disciplined. And maybe guys running 800m should step up a bit and move into 1 500m. I think most of the athletes are scared of the distance. Then we must look at the training perspective, maybe there are a little bit soft on themselves. They must step up their training level to compete with Eastern African athletes,"said the man who is the holder of a 3:34.30 personal best over the distance.


The 38-year-old also congratulated Jerry Motsau, who broke his national 3 000m record last month with a scintillating run of 7:40:99 in Italy. "Obviously, I'm happy for Jerry that he managed to get that time. Let's hope this will improve the standard to see more guys running 7:30's in the future. Whenever a record is broken then it's an opportunity for new athletes to top their performances. Let's take nothing away from Jerry's hard work and perseverance over the years which paid off in the end," he concluded.

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