UP-Tuks took a big leap in becoming Varsity Athletics champions after they placed first in the delayed first leg of the competition. The first round of the competition took place on 18 March at the University of Johannesburg stadium. The performance that ultimately caught the attention of onlookers belonged to men’s 400 m hurdler Leroux Hamman. Hamman broke the 50-second barrier for the first time in his career, securing a bronze finish with a time of 49.99 seconds and added to UP’s victory of 15 496 points. Hamman spoke to Perdeby about the season and his achievement ahead of the second leg that took place on 7 April in Stellenbosch.
How do you feel about breaking the 50-second barrier as a 400 m hurdles athlete?
In 400 m hurdles, one of the biggest steps an athlete can take is to break that 50-second barrier. It took me four hard years of training and devotion to get my time from 50.99 to 49.99. The gratitude you experience when achieving that is absolutely amazing. This has been one of the best feelings in my life, and one that I will never forget.
After the Johannesburg meet, you were just over half a second away from achieving an Olympic qualifying time. How does that influence your athletic goals this year?As for the Olympic qualifying time, the best way to achieve that is to keep on praying and believing that God will bless me with going to the Olympics. I have been running hurdles for 14 years now, and one of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that you can’t run hurdles without God. So in short, my faith will determine my athletic goals this year.
How do your personal expectations change for the meet down in Stellenbosch, which offers different conditions?
It’s always nice to run at sea level with all the oxygen in the air, compared to here in Gauteng. This is actually a very good opportunity to run in Stellenbosch, because SA Senior Championships are a week later on the same track. So it’s a very nice practice run for nationals.
How does the recent international success of individual UP athletes encourage the team’s overall performance at such meets?
UP-Tuks has a lot of international[ly] successful athletes. I train with two of them personally, namely LJ van Zyl and Wenda Nel. Training with them day after day and then seeing them performing internationally makes you believe you can do that as well. When you have that belief to win, you most probably will win. This counts for all of the UP international athletes and the people they inspire.
What would you attribute the success of UP-Tuks in the Varsity Athletics to, seeing as they have retained the Varsity Athletics title since its inception?
I attribute the success of UP to the coaches. In almost all of the events, UP sits with the best coaches in SA. When an athlete performs, half of the credit is due to the coach. When you know you have the best coach, you believe you are on the right track. With every training session and every gym session, you know they have a plan and are making you faster and better. With so many good coaches at UP, all the athletes have the belief that they can win, which eventually makes you win.
What would it mean to the team to achieve an eight consecutive Varsity Athletics title?
Winning eight consecutive Varsity Athletic meetings will and, ultimately has, cultivated a culture of winning. In athletics, winning becomes a habit. The more you win, the more you want to win, and so the harder you work to achieve that victory. Because of this winning culture, everybody wants to come to Tuks. We attract the best young athletes to come and join Tuks and make the athletics club stronger and stronger.