Viljoen in a good space
13 July 2012 | OCKERT DE VILLIERS
Four years ago Viljoen nearly missed the Games on a technicality and played second fiddle to her training partner and former African record holder Justine Robbeson.
This time around the 28-year-old is armed with a string of African records behind her name. She set her most recent record less than two months before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Provided she is not overtaken in the rankings list before then, Viljoen could arrive in the English capital as the No 1 women’s javelin thrower in the world after setting a season’s best heave of 69.35 metres.
“You will always be nervous, but you have to channel it and I think I am at a stage where I am calm in myself, in my faith and in my heart.
“I am prepared, and I think the big thing is that you have nothing to be afraid of because you are prepared. I think there is nothing more that you can do.”
Considering the selection debacle ahead of the Beijing Games, it would have been almost unfathomable to think that Viljoen would four years later be one of South Africa’s best contenders for a medal.
Viljoen was initially omitted from the Olympic team for Beijing after her qualifying throw of 62.24m was achieved at a meeting that was not recognised on the Athletics SA (ASA) fixtures list.
After some diplomatic wrangling by ASA and former SA Olympic Committee president Sam Ramsamy, she was included at the 11th hour.
At the Games, Viljoen failed to progress beyond the qualifying rounds with a best throw of 55.58m, only a week after she was added to the team.
While the affair affected Viljoen negatively at the time, she believed it was valuable experience she banked for future endeavours.
This will be her third appearance at the Olympics after she made her debut as a wide-eyed teenager at the 2004 Athens Games.
She has learned a lot since then.
“Experience teaches you how to handle those kinds of situations, and while you are nervous you learn how to deal with it,” she said.
She has experienced a meteoric rise in the world javelin ranks since 2008, improving her personal best every season since then and progressing seven metres over the last three years.
While Viljoen holds the Commonwealth and world student titles, her real global breakthrough came at last year’s Daegu World Championships where she clinched the bronze medal.
Viljoen boosted her confidence at the Diamond League meeting in New York last month when she bettered her national record with a mammoth throw that fell just 65cm short of the magical 70m mark.
She beat world record holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic and launched herself into the first position in the world rankings.
While her ascendancy may have come as a surprise to some, Viljoen believes it’s a well deserved result after many hours of hard work.
“I am now in a privileged position to have that ammunition in my arsenal. It is what I have always strived for and I think I am now in the right place in my life.” – Sapa.
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