Gqeberha field athlete Ischke Senekal will rely on more than a decade’s international experience when she makes her debut at the World Athletics Championships next week.
The 29-year-old shot put star will join Madibaz Athletics Club colleague Luxolo Adams in the South African team for the high-profile meeting in Eugene, Oregon, in the United States from July 15 to 24.
Adams, also making his first appearance at the event, clinched his berth in the squad when he blitzed his way to victory in the 200m race in a Diamond League meeting in Paris last month.
He defeated Canada’s Olympic champion Andre de Grasse in the process and now aims to test his sprinting prowess at the next level.
Meanwhile, Senekal will enter her maiden world championships as the reigning African shot put champion after grabbing gold at the African Championships in Mauritius last month.
She made her first appearance on the big stage at the African Junior Championships in Botswana in 2011 and felt the experience she had gained since then would stand her in good stead.
“Luckily, I have competed in some big events previously so I have a fair idea of what to expect,” said Senekal.
“Even though every competition is different in its own way, the meetings I have attended have prepared me to expect that.
“It’s natural that you will feel very nervous at first, but it’s how you manage that and turn it to your advantage which will determine how you perform.”
Senekal felt her selection was reward for the hard work she had put into her career and acknowledged the guidance she received from coach Kobus van Zyl.
“Whatever I do or achieve would not be possible without his support and knowledge,” she said. “When I win a medal it is not ‘my medal’ but ‘our medal’.
“To represent my country at the world champs for the first time is a huge honour and it has been one of my top long-term career goals. So I am very excited at this opportunity.”
Senekal said they had been constantly working to improve her discipline since the African Championships, where she shrugged off a shaky start before recovering to take the title.
“A few mistakes crept in so we have been working on eliminating those, and we also introduced small changes to my technique to achieve more distance.
“Up against the best in the world, my big goal is to make it into the final (top 12) and then to see where the competition goes.
“I have learnt that you should never give up, no matter how hard and bumpy the road ahead looks. Put your head down and grind through those challenges and obstacles because, in the end, you will be better and tougher.”
Adams, who will run in the 200m, is excited about the opportunity ahead after bursting into prominence on the world stage this season.
“It’s a massive honour for me and my family to represent my country,” said the 25-year-old Gqeberha sprinter. “This is proof that the hard work that I have put in is starting to pay dividends.”
The Madibaz athlete has been racing in Europe and said he realised that there would be some challenges ahead.
“Obviously, it’s important to overcome the jet lag as we move into a different time zone and the competition will be very strong.
“My goal is to get through the qualifying rounds without any mistakes and I look forward to seeing what happens if I can make the final.”