South African LJ van Zyl breaks 11-year-old national 400m hurdles record in Pretoria

LJ Van Zyl after winning the African 400 metres hurdles title in Nairobi last year / Photo by Yomi Omogbeja

South African 400m hurdler Louis J van Zyl smashed Llewellyn Herbert's 11-year-old record at the second Yellow Pages meeting at the LC de Villiers Stadium, University of Pretoria last night.

Van Zyl, the reigning African champion from Nairobi 2010, jumped out of the blocks at a breakneck speed setting a new South African 400m hurdles record in 47.66 seconds.

He improved on Herbert's record of 47.80 seconds set at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

If no other athlete sets a new South African record at any of the remaining Yellow Pages meetings or at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Van Zyl will win the R200 000 Pot of Gold set aside by Athletics South Africa (ASA) and Yellow Pages.

Van Zyl revealed that his fear of losing against the South African champ, Cornel Fredericks, in front of his home crowd spurred him on to run a fast race.

"I didn't want to lose in front of my people and expected to run a good 48 second race," said the elated athlete.

Running this fast so early in the season means Van Zyl and his coach, Hennie Kotze, will have to revisit Van Zyl's goals for the months ahead.

"I don't know how we will approach the rest of the season. This time, however, would have been good enough to earn me a medal at the previous Olympic Games in Beijing," Van Zyl said.

Fredericks finished in slow 49.61 seconds with PC Beneke behind him 51.7.

World junior long jump champion Luvo Manyonga, fended off the challenge from former Olympic medallist James Beckford to win the long jump in an impressive 8.05 metres.

It was an excellent result for Manyonga who is participating in his first season as a senior athlete.

The 36-year old Beckford put up a good fight but his junior of sixteen years made easy pickings of the Jamaican.

World 800m champion Caster Semenya had a disappointing 1 500m race finishing in fourth place with Lebogang Phalula coming first.

Phalula was disappointed with her 4:09.08 as she expected to run a sub four minute race.

She was followed by her twin sister, Lebo Phalula in 4:21.09 and Christine Kalmer in third place in a time of 4:24.57.

© South African Press Association

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