Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


Lythe Pillay sets sights on Olympics, with relay medal on the cards

Pillay will play a key role in the men's 4x400m relay team as they target a place on the podium.


He won’t be South Africa’s top 400m sprinter at this year’s Paris Olympics, but rising star Lythe Pillay is hoping to put up a fight, and if all goes well he could return home with a medal.

Pillay, a former world junior champion, secured his first national senior title in Pietermaritzburg last month, clocking a personal best 44.31 seconds.

Last week the 21-year-old athlete was included in the provisional national team for the Olympics, alongside world record holder Wayde van Niekerk and former national champion Zakithi Nene.

“Things have happened really fast and I’m just really blessed and grateful to be in the position I’m in now,” Pillay said.

“I’m really excited because things are looking quite optimistic for us at this point, and we have a lot of momentum to roll with into the Olympics. I’m just looking to remain consistent and healthy until then.”

Out of reach?

Though he is ranked fifth in the world this year over the 400m distance, in the early stages of the international season, Pillay admits it is unlikely that he will challenge for a podium place in his individual event in the French capital in August. But he is not writing himself off.

“I feel like the winning time (at the Olympics) is going to be a sub-44, and I think it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that from myself this year,” he said.

“What I can say is if I can get my body in the same shape it was in for SA Champs at the Olympics, then anything can happen.”

Relay medal opportunity

Perhaps even more important than his individual event, however, will be the key role he plays in the men’s 4x400m relay, with the SA squad expected to line up among the podium favourites after securing silver at the World Relays championship in Bahamas earlier this month.

And if the SA mixed 4x400m team were able to qualify for the Games, Pillay confirmed he was fully committed to giving his best for the national team in both four-lap relays.

“It’s an honour not just to run for myself but for my country,” he said, “and that team effort in the relays adds an extra level of excitement to everything.”

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