Justine Palframan goes into the 200m heats at the world championships in London on Tuesday night after learning how to smile again.
The 2015 World Student Games 400m champion says she suffered a major knock in confidence in the months after her success two years ago‚ after which her form badly dipped.
While Akani Simbine‚ another Universiade champion alongside her‚ moved on to bigger things‚ Palframan went backwards.
Last year was a nightmare‚ with her best efforts in the 200m and 400m being slower than the previous year — she was nearly two seconds slower in her premier 400m event.
“I started with a new coach [this season] so we just wanted to build my confidence up again because after last year it dropped a lot and I wasn’t enjoying running.
“We just wanted to build the enjoyment and then just see what happens‚” said the biokinetics honours student at Stellenbosch‚ where she is mentored by crack Paralympic coach Suzanne Ferreira.
The new approach has worked so far.
Palframan cracked a 200m PB of 22.84 in early July‚ and this year she has been under 53 seconds in the 400m on four occasions‚ her best efforts over that distance since winning the 2015 Universiade gold in 51.27.
“By just having fun and enjoying what I was doing‚ the times came as well‚ so it was very‚ very exciting.”
Palframan believes her problem was the length of the 2015 season‚ where she bounced from the university showpiece to the senior world championships in Beijing and finally the Africa Games.
“The season was far too long for me and in 2016 my confidence was already low. I was tired‚ I didn’t want to be running but I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics so I just kept pressing on.
“But I didn’t have enough time to deal with all my emotions and to actually sit down and regroup myself.”
Her focus on Tuesday night is not the times‚ but rather fine-tuning elements of her race.
“What I’m working on is just to smile after the race so if I have a really bad time or really good time‚ I just want to smile.
“For me just being happy about whatever happens‚ I think that will be nice … the time will come. The time is not the focus. It’s more the process of getting every check point right.”
Obsessing over times was not productive.
“That’s an outcome goal. I must focus on the process because if I’m just here to get that PB and I don’t get it‚ then what happens?
“But if I focus on just enjoying the moment and maybe getting the start right‚ getting the bend right and taking things from it I can work on‚ I’m going to enjoy it more in the long run.”
Palframan hadn’t intended on coming to London‚ but was a late inclusion for the 4x400m relay and was allowed to do the individual 200m.
But her confidence is high‚ especially after seeing the success of her disabled training partners at their recent world championships.
“I’ve done all the work and I’ve just watched my training partners and the times they’re doing and I know where I am compared to them.
“If they can do it‚ there’s nothing stopping me from doing it.”
Kenyan Kalalei triumphs in Athens Marathon
Samuel Kalalei won the 35th Athens Classic Marathon on Sunday as Kenyan runners dominated the grueling, largely uphill course by sweeping the top five places in the men’s race.
The 23-year-old crossed the line in two hours, 12 minutes and 17 seconds, ahead of Milton Kiplagat Rotich, who clocked 2:14.18, with Jonathan Kiptoo Yego in third at 2:16.08.
The women’s race was won by 18-year-old Ethiopian Bedaru Hirpa Badane in a time of 2:34.18.
Around 18,500 runners from dozens of countries took part in the authentic marathon which began near the tumulus erected for the Greek dead from the Battle of Marathon.
Another 30,000 participated in the shorter 5km and 10km races in downtown Athens.
According to legend, the 42km route from Marathon to Athens was first run by Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger who in 490 BC dashed to the city to announce victory over the Persians, before dying of exhaustion.
Run on a four-lane concrete avenue through the urban districts of east Athens with a finish at the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the 1896 Olympics, the race is a challenge for runners as much of it is uphill.
Moroccan born European 5000m champion arrested in doping raid
Reigning European 5000m champion Ilias Fifa was arrested in Barcelona on Wednesday as part of a doping probe, sources of the investigation confirmed.
Fifa, born in Morocco but who has represented Spain since 2015, was arrested at his home on Wednesday morning in Santa Coloma de Gramenet on the outskirts of the Catalan capital.
The 28-year-old is just one of a number of arrests being carried out in operations « for crimes against public health and the use of medications with great danger to health » said a statement from the Catalan High Court of Justice.
The Court also confirmed the operation carried out on Wednesday began with a police investigation back in June.
Fifa took advantage of Mo Farah’s absence to claim European gold at the 2016 European Championships in Amsterdam.
That had been the crowning glory in an inspiring rise to fame as Fifa arrived in Spain 11 years ago as an immigrant hiding in a truck.
Rooney ponders switch to 800m
Martyn Rooney is the first to admit his 2017 has hardly been a year to remember but big changes could be on the horizon as he ponders a switch to the 800m.
The two-time European 400m champion anchored Great Britain to 4x400m bronze at the World Championships in London this summer, yet has struggled with his performances in the individual event.
He finished sixth in his heat in the capital with a third-place finish in Brussels, his best performance on the Diamond League circuit.
But the 30-year-old insists that he desperately needs a motivational spark and that could come in doubling his distance on the track – a move recommended to him by Lord Seb Coe.
Yet Rooney is under no illusions as to the challenges that await if he is to switch, knowing only too well he can’t take anything for granted at this stage of his career.
« I have to find some new goals and find something that is going to excite me, » he said.
« Seb Coe says I need to go and run an 800m, so we’ll see what the winter brings.
« A change is as good as a rest and there are some great 800m coaches in Loughborough, so it would be great to jump into a couple of sessions and see how it goes.
« It’s not been a great year – in fact it’s been an awful year – but it’s a year when I asked for two things: a healthy baby [his daughter Ciada was born in August] and a world medal.
« I got both. I got the things I wanted, so I can’t be greedy. It’s my 11th year on the circuit and sometimes, you are going to have a bad year. »
While the athletics world is turning its attentions to next year’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, Rooney faces the possibility of remaining on British shores after not reaching the qualifying standard.
But an opportunity could arise if selectors decide to send a relay squad Down Under, with Rooney even offering to pay his own way.
« The Commonwealth Games is completely out of my control, » he said.
« I haven’t hit the standard and they don’t know if they are going to take a relay team because of the cost.
« I’ve said I’ll pay for my flights. I don’t mind doing it but it’s up to the selectors and whether they want to take a team or not.
« My senior individual debut was in Melbourne, so it would be nice to go back and have another go.
« With a good winter behind me, you never know what could happen. »
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