Top South African 20km race walker Anél Oosthuizen, who qualified for the Rio Olympics with a national record, said she felt like she was “dreaming” ahead of the biggest moment of her sporting career.
The 21-year-old University of Johannesburg student said that although the word “excited” was quite the understatement, she was adopting a mature approach.
“I think for any athlete it is extremely important to stay focused and to make sure you do what is necessary when competing at the Olympics,” said Oosthuizen, who grew up in George in the Western Cape.
“That is something you will have to keep reminding yourself of when you are there. It is important not to let the hype of the Olympics influence you to a level that you get too emotional about it.”
Her Olympic dreams started to take shape when she moved to Gauteng to study teaching at UJ and joined their athletic programme.
“I have improved immensely since I started at UJ and my coach, Carl Meyer, has played a very big role in that.
“I have made my dream of going to the Olympics a reality and that would not have been possible had it not been for UJ.”
However, the success of the four-time national champion has been a long time in the making.
“I participated in athletics from a very young age and used to love doing every event that was available at our sports day. Those were the moments that laid the foundation for me as an athlete and allowed me to grow.”
Although Oosthuizen started race walking at the age of 11, there have been detours.
“I even tried shot put,” she said, “but let’s just say I knew immediately it was not for me.”
Even though her career is far from over, she already has plans to put her education to good use.
“I love working with children and my life goal is to try and build a better future for them and to try and make a difference in their lives.”