22 June 2012
Among the athletes that will be representing South Africa at the 2012 London Olympic Games, only one owns a world leading mark in 2012: javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen.
The 29-year-old, a multi-talented sportswoman who has also represented South Africa in cricket, achieved her world leading distance of 69.35 metres in New York on 9 June.
It not only gave her a win over world record holder Barbora Spotakova, who finished runner-up with the second best mark of the season, 68.73 metres, it was also an African record.
‘It is amazing’
Addressing the media after the competition, Viljoen said: “It is an amazing feeling. Wow, world number one with a new SA, Africa and Commonwealth record!
“It is an achievement I am really proud of, because I’ve worked extremely hard for it.”
The previous continental record of 68.38 metres also belonged to Viljoen. She achieved that distance in the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in what many experts regard as the greatest women’s javelin competition in history.
That distance was good for third place behind Russia’s Maria Abakumova, who threw 71.99 metres, and Spotakova, who placed second with 71.58. It would have been good enough to win the two previous World Championships, in Berlin in 2009 and Osaka in 2007.
That result, too, underlines the fact that Viljoen has in recent seasons established herself among the handful of elite athletes in the running to appear on the Olympic podium in London.
Her consistency is further reflected in her second best throw of 2012, 67.95 metres in Rome on 31 May, which also ranks fourth in the world this year.
Since 2008, she has improved steadily. Her best throw that year was 62.24 metres. In 2009 it was 65.43m, in 2010 66.38m, and last year the 68.38m she achieved in the World Championships.
Apart from her bronze medal in Daegu, Viljoen is a two-time Commonwealth Games champion, having won the title in 2006 and 2010. She is a three-time African Championships winner, with victories in 2004, 2008 and 2010.
She also won gold at the Afro-Asian Games in 2008, and was twice a gold medal winner at the Universiade, also known as the World Student Games.
Viljoen will spend July and August in South Africa preparing for the Olympic Games, which will keep her out of the spotlight. However, her closest competitors will know the South African is an athlete to look out for and to be respected, because she is not only a potential medalist, but a potential Olympic champion.
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