An Olympics to remember – Adri de Jongh-Schoeman
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, it’s awesome to have you with us and I don’t know about you, but I’m on such a high from the Rio Olympic Games. An incredible experience and just what an event. You, kind of forget in the build-up to an Olympic Games how amazing they are, but I can’t wait, another four years.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself, Tokyo 2020 I think is going to be incredible. We’re joined now by a former South African sprinter who has done some amazing things on the track in her own right. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Adri de Jongh-Schoeman onto the podcast today. Adri welcome, thanks for joining us.
Adri de Jongh-Schoeman: Thank you for having me, it’s a big honour for me to be on the show.
BB: Adri, let’s just touch on the Olympics, sitting as an athlete, watching what’s been going on in Rio, there’s something special about Olympic Games isn’t there?
ADJS: I can say something, I don’t know what’s happened this year or the last past four years, what the athletes have been doing, but it’s been electrifying. The performances, new faces coming through, the times that these athletes are doing, the distances.
I especially enjoyed the discus the other night for the men, it was absolutely amazing. Something that I normally wouldn’t get into and watching, because I’m a track athlete. But the discus was absolutely amazing, how that German did there, it was unbelievable, it’s been an amazing Olympics so far.
BB: Before we touch on the track events, you bring up an interesting point there. The field events this year have been incredible and so often they’ve gone down to, whether it’s the last jump or the last throw. You look at Luvo Manyonga in the long jump, he was ahead and then he goes and loses by one centimetre on the last jump, it’s just been fascinating to watch.
ADJS: Especially that long jump. I must admit, I actually celebrated the Gold Medal at home already before the American jumped that last jump. So that was a bit, for me it was a disappointment and outside that, for the American well done.
You’ve come out and done something like that, on your last jump, is something out of this world. It just shows you the mental stability and the strength that an athlete must have to be able to do something like that, it’s unbelievable.
Wayde van Niekerk was/is unbelievable
BB: It just shows big match temperament I think is the best way to describe it. Let’s talk about the track though and particularly from a Team South Africa perspective, on the sprinting side of things. What a performance from Wayde van Niekerk, a lot was expected of him. But running blind, in lane eight, you ran the 400m competitively, how tough is it? First of all, running blind, running in lane eight, not knowing what’s happening behind you? To put in a performance like that, it just shows you how special he is.
ADJS: I can tell you something, when the final came up and I saw that he’s in lane eight, the first thing that came to my mind is, oh my goodness Wayde, you’re going to have to run your heart out from the start. Because if you do a lane eight in a final, you run blindly until about 300m, 350m.
So you’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going on at the back. These other guys are absolutely running on you. For Wayde to get what he did was, I tell you, it’s mystical, humanely for me, it’s absolutely not possible and he did it. It just shows you the absolute strength physically and mentally Wayde’s got, it’s huge respect for that man.
BB: I know this is pure speculation but if he had been drawn in say lane three or lane four, do you think he could have gone faster?
ADJS: You know what, a lot of people ask me that. Look, then again it’s my opinion, I personally think that it was Godsend that way, that he got lane eight. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have, but from my perspective, I think it was a blessing that he ran lane eight. I don’t think he would have run maybe that fast, running on the inside.
Because remember, if you run on the inside, you tend to relax more because you see the whole field in front of you. You know exactly where to go faster or to take it a little bit slower because you can see. Wayde, to run that time out of lane eight means the he just went out and he ran like there’s no tomorrow. I think that was the only way he did it, because the faster you run in the 100m or the 200m, the faster your 400m is, it’s a sprint and it’s exactly what he did.
An Olympic 100m final is no joke!
BB: He’s run himself into athletic folklore, of that there’s no doubt. He wasn’t the only one who put in a good performance, let’s talk about Akani Simbine as well. He didn’t pick up a medal, but to not only qualify for a 100m final at an Olympic Games, but to finish 5th and be so close to picking up a medal! He’s just improved in leaps and bounds over the last few seasons.
ADJS: Look, I must say something and I will say it out loud, Akani is my ultimate favourite. Very nice person, good friend of mine. I see him often at the track, I’m so sad for him in my heart that he didn’t get that Bronze Medal. Because he was so close. I just think there’s going to come very big things from Akani in the future. What he did was amazing.
South Africans who run in a final in 100m and even get to a semi-final in 100m is amazing. Because 100m as you all would know, is one of the most competitive events on the track. I’m telling you Akani was unbelievable. I’m sad for him that he didn’t get that Bronze. but I’m also happy for him because he did something that no one else in South Africa did before.
BB: Adri, what do you attribute the growth and explosion in South African sprinting to? We’ve spoken about Wayde and Akani, but there’s some other runners and sprinters and thereabouts as well. If you think about Anaso, those two youngsters that ran the 200m. Obviously performances weren’t up to probably what they would have hoped, but it bodes well for South African sprinting, we’re obviously doing something right. What’s causing this uptake in sprinting all of a sudden?
ADJS: You know what, I can tell you something, not to take anything away from our South African coaches, but I think our South African coaches have realised that we need to dig a little bit deeper into the international teams. If you think about it, Wayde had some help from the Jamaican’s, Anaso is overseas, Akani had some help from the overseas coaches. Someone like a 100m girl, what’s her name, she’s also involved with an overseas coach, Karina, she’s also involved with an overseas coach.
Hennie Kriel, a very respected coach in South Africa that coaches the young boys and Clarence, he’s also very knowledgeable with what the overseas coaches are doing and he does a lot of research. One must respect that. Some of our coaches in South Africa have actually gone out and started researching what is it that the other people, from the other nations, what are they doing that their athletes are so absolutely incredible. I think that helps us a lot. We welcome that.
I think I speak to a lot of young athletes and they welcome it. They say, please go and find out what’s going on, please go find out what they’re doing that we’re not doing. Bring it into our programmes, incorporate it, go learn. I think that is one of the best things that our coaches can do, is to go learn from people that have done it before.
How age affects your sprinting ability
BB: Let’s talk about age and sprinting and how difficult it is. You look at somebody like Justin Gatlin who obviously didn’t win Gold in the 100m. He crashed out of the 200m. He’s no spring chicken anymore. How difficult is it to sprint as you’re getting older? We know from a road running perspective, the longer you go, the older you get, the more you slow down, does the same happen in an explosive sport like sprinting, is it tough?
ADJS: It is very tough. I can vouch for that. I retired at the age of 36 and it became harder, not necessarily in running fast, it becomes harder with your recovery period. Your body takes longer to recover. You need to train more clever. The older you get, it’s not about what you do, less is more, that kind of thing.
For the young ones, they can train twice a day, the next day they’re okay, they can go again. For us, when you hit 30 and you get a little bit older, you need to be more wise. You need to rest more, you can’t do two sessions a day. That makes it difficult. Because you tend to stay behind when it comes to certain quality sessions, when it comes to the younger ones.
The main thing is to stay healthy and to rest a lot and to eat right. To do the right things, then I think your career can go, even in your late 30’s. Look at Kim Collins, he’s in his 40’s, look what he’s doing. So yes, it can be done, it’s just much more difficult.
BB: You look at somebody like Usain Bolt, it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s younger than 30, he’s in his late 20’s. Do you think he could possibly be around, I know he’s talking that he wants to hang up his spikes, he’s dominated over three Olympics. But do you think he could possibly be around in the form he’s in now, come Tokyo 2020?
ADJS: I think he can, Usain has got an exceptional talent and he’s the ultimate when it comes to physical athlete and everything. He’s got the whole package. But you know what, I also speak from personal opinion, that you sometimes get tired of doing the same thing year in and year out. You just want a normal life.
Maybe he wants to start a family maybe, he wants to get married. Because remember also, when you’re competing on that scene, there’s not really time for that, unless you’re married and someone understand what you do. It makes it very difficult for you to compete at that level and train in that level and be in a relationship.
That’s why you will find that a lot of these stars and athletes, they don’t commit until they’re at the end of their careers or nearly finished. I think Usain could go on if he really wanted to, but maybe, I think next year he will do a World’s and maybe a Commonwealth Games, but I don’t think we will see him in 2020 in Tokyo.
There future looks bright
BB: I can’t see Justin Gatlin being around much longer, it bodes well for somebody like Akani Simbine. Obviously those two guys have dominated the sprinting scene for many years, without them, he’s got a good chance of picking up podiums at big competitions.
ADJS: Definitely. It’s sad that the two big guns are going out, but the new ones are coming in and there’s a lot of young talent coming in, like our own sprinters in South Africa. The young boys are training and they’re coming through, the two Americans overseas, the one that beat Gatlin in the 200m semi-finals at the trials, at the US trials, Norman, I think his surname is Norman. He also won the World Juniors, brilliant upcoming talent that’s coming up. De Grasse of Canada, he’s got exceptional talent, he runs very well.
The young ones are coming in and it makes the sport more exciting, new blood is coming in, new people that you can look at, new stars coming up for the young ones to look at. People like Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt and Gatlin will always be there, it’s respect, you will always remember them, they were there.
BB: Absolute legends. Adri, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live, loved chatting and we look forward to doing it again soon, thanks for joining us.
ADJS: Thank you so much, thanks for having me, thank you very much.