Potchefstroom, South Africa Hezekiel Sepeng, 30-years-old holder of the South African senior and junior 800m records and a competitor in three Olympic finals, has decided to have a final go at the 2008 Games in Beijing, after being persuaded to do so by Britain's Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic gold medal winner in Athens.
Sepeng, who came sixth in the Athens Olympic final started his international career at the 1992 World Junior Championships in Seoul where he came fifth. The highlights of his remarkable senior career have included silver medals at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, and at the 1999 World Championships in Seville.
He had been in two minds whether to retire after Athens but after talking to Holmes, a regular visitor to Potchefstroom and owner of a house in the town, he took the decision to carry on.
“She was so convincing that he could hardly ignore the advice,” confirmed Jean Verster who is Sepeng’s coach. "Holmes told Sepeng to think a bit about what she had achieved in Athens. With all his experience gained in three Olympic finals and more than one World Championship final, she had no doubt that he could do the same (in 2008)."
Sepeng has decided that he will gradually progress towards Beijing with the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne as the first major stop. He will run in domestic meetings in South Africa this year as well as a few very early summer meetings in Europe with the plan, at this stage, to give the later European season a miss, given that the Commonwealth Games takes place so early in 2006 (20-25 March)
Verster added that the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan would be the next important global target for Sepeng. They are hoping the South African federation (ASA) might organise a training camp and perhaps a few warm-up meetings in China prior to the Worlds in Osaka.
“It would create an opportunity to get used to Chinese conditions before 2008 and would also offer an ideal build-up before the Championships in Japan,” confirmed Verster.
In the forthcoming 2005 ABSA Series of meetings in South Africa Sepeng will run 800m races in Bloemfontein (11 Feb) and Oudtshoorn (5 Mar) and two 1500m events in Durban (18 Feb) and Stellenbosch (11 Mar). He will not feature in the opening ABSA meeting in Potchefstroom on 4 February, while a decision about the sixth fixture in Pretoria (18 March) will be taken later. He is also to run in the South African Championships in Durban in April (15 – 16) where he will most probably defend his 800m title.
Gert le Roux for the IAAF