Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
1 minute read
22 Apr 2018
10:28 am

SA’s champion hurdler LJ van Zyl calls an end to a distinguished career

Wesley Botton

Van Zyl said the main reason he decided to retire is that he no longer has 'butterflies' ahead of races.

One of the most talented and accomplished South African athletes of his generation, national 400m hurdles record holder LJ van Zyl has sprung a surprise midway through the 2018 season by calling time on his international career.

“The time has come to say goodbye to athletics,” the 32-year-old Van Zyl revealed on social media on Sunday.

“It’s been a great journey for the last 23 years of my life. Thanks to all my sponsors, coaches and friends.”

A teenage prodigy, Van Zyl won the world junior title in Kingston in 2002, at the age of 16, and he went on to secure Commonwealth Games, African Championships and All Africa Games titles during his lengthy elite career, which lasted more than 15 years.

He set the SA record off 47.66 in Pretoria in 2011, and after matching that performance later in the season, he went on to bag the bronze medal in his specialist event at the World Championships in Daegu. He also led the national 4x400m relay team to silver.

The seven-time national champion competed at three editions of the Olympic Games, finishing fifth in the one-lap final over the barriers at the 2008 spectacle in Beijing.

Though he was unable to progress beyond the heats in what would turn out to be his final appearance on the track at the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Van Zyl set a 2018 season’s best of 49.45 earlier in the domestic campaign, closing out a remarkable string of career performances by dipping under 49.50 for the 17th year in a row.