The blind middle distance athlete, Louzanne Coetzee, of Bloemfontein takes to the track on Thursday afternoon at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The world record holder in the T11 5000m with be running in the 1st heat of the women’s 1500m this afternoon.
Coetzee has been drawn in a very tough heat which will feature the current world number one, Jin Zheng of China, as well as the fifth seeded Brazilian, Renata Teixeira.
The other athlete in the heat are the world number eight, Nancy Koech, of Kenya and Turkey’s Oznur Alumur, who is ranked 9th.
Coetzee is the current world number four and has a personal best of 5:00.25 over the distance, which is also the Africa record. Her time is the second fastest among the athletes in the heat, with Zheng reigning supreme with a PB of 4:46.19.
What makes it even tougher is the fact that only the two first placed athletes in each of the two heats automatically qualify for the final, while the two fastest qualifiers also advance. This leaves little room for error and the race tactics have to be spot on with good communication between herself and her guide, Khothatso Mokone.
The second heat is just as tough and sees the second-ranked Maritza Arango of Colombia and the world number three, Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt, as the favourites to book their spots in the final.
Angola’s Befilia Buya will also run in this heat, and it’s actually her time of 5:03:36 that Coetzee bettered in Berlin, Germany, earlier this year to break the Africa record and also qualify for Rio.
Coetzee told Courant that there is some pressure to follow in the footsteps of her fellow Kovsie, Wayde van Niekerk, who broke the 400m world record to win the Olympic gold.
“With the coaching of Rufus Botha, I’m more than prepared to be here,” said Coetzee.
“My parents are coming, so it’s going to be nice to have support from home here, I’m very fortunate to have that.
“Wayde is a big inspiration, but no pressure,” Coetzee said jokingly.
Coetzee has learnt that Bloemfontein’s now second most famous athlete, the legendary Zola Budd, sent her a text message for a bit of extra motivation which also left her a bit emotional.
Budd’s message reads: “The 1500m race remains three and three-quarter laps, whether it is Paralympics or a local race.”
Coetzee with be in action on Thursday afternoon at 17:45 (South African time). Be sure not to miss it! – MORGAN PIEK