Elroy Gelant – ready for the Olympic Games
08 March 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. All sports fans are counting down the days to the start of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and we’ve been building up to it over the last few months here on the podcast.
Chatting to many of the athletes from Team South Africa who will be representing Mzansi in South America. One of those gentleman who will be giving his all is Elroy Gelant and he joins us now. Elroy, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us today.
Elroy Gelant: Thanks a lot Brad, it’s really nice to be on the programme.
BB: Elroy, for any athlete, and I’m not just talking athletics and a runner like you are. But any athlete who participates in a sport that is an Olympics sport, this is the ultimate. To get to represent your country on the biggest stage in world sport, it must be an incredible feeling?
EG: Yes, Brad, it’s really an incredible feeling. It’s really a dream come true for me. I think for every athlete the dream is to represent your country at the Olympic Games. So it’s really a dream come true for me. I’m really excited, looking forward to the Rio Olympic Games to see all of the athletes and especially to represent my country there.
Being a part of the opening ceremony
BB: Elroy, a friend of mine went over as part of the management crew in London to those Games and that opening ceremony is just something special. I remember him taking photos of all the stars, there were some massive names, Novak Djokovic. It’s stars that you and I both see on TV that you don’t normally necessarily get to be around. But the opening ceremony is going to be something incredible isn’t it?
EG: Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think it’s on the fifth of August, we’re already leaving on the third of August. So yes, I’m really excited just to come out to represent your country there at the opening ceremony where people can see you.
You see the stars, like you just mentioned, I think it’s really an unbelievable feeling just to be at that stage. To be surrounded by superstars, by Usain Bolt, like Djokovic and everyone. So yes, I’m really looking forward to it. But I think it’s also important just to stay focused, why you’re there. But I think you also need to enjoy every moment that comes with it.
BB: Let’s talk about your build-up and the preparation. How’s it gone and it’s been a, these four year cycles are tough. Obviously there’s build-up phases and then there’s phases where you’re not really thinking about it. But it is such a long term planning thing, that it’s almost surreal that it’s here now. You’ve been working towards this for so long, it’s hard to believe. You probably need to pinch yourself, knowing that it’s not long now and you get to perform on that track in Rio.
Backing myself to be up there in the final
EG: Yes, it’s not long anymore, it’s about four weeks for me before my heat. I’m running on the 17th of August, which is the first round of my heat. Then I’ll run the 20th if I get into the finals. Then I’ll be running the finals on the 20th.
Yes, it’s a long build-up. People always say it’s a four-year build-up from one Olympic to the next, but for me as well, you take it step by step. Next year again, it’s World Champs, so you just take these platforms and prepare yourself for the next Olympic Games or for the next Games.
My planning is really going well at the moment. I’ve got four weeks left. As I said, before my first race and I’m looking forward to a really great Olympics. I’m really aiming for a podium finish. I know it’s going to be tough to run against these Kenyans and Ethiopians and Mo Farah from Great Britain.
But for me, I’m starting to believe that I can really get onto that podium. It’s going to be difficult for me. But if I can run a 52 seconds last 400m, I think I’ll be in the podium finish. I’m looking forward, I’m just having the belief of getting a podium finish.
BB: Elroy, let’s talk about the decision to run the 5 000m. There’s been lots of talk, not particularly around you, but if you look at the likes of Stephen Mokoka, in the build-up. You look at what Caster Semenya has done and there’s been lots of talk, is she going to run the 400, is she going to run the 800, is she going to run the 1 500.
For you, deciding, you know what, the 5 000 is my wheelhouse. Talk to me about making that decision as opposed to possibly running the 1 500. Because I know you’ve got that sort of speed as well and possibly even going further. You’re a middle to long distance runner, you’re a pretty decent 10 000m runner to.
Deciding on which event to focus on
EG: Yes, you know, I think it started all back in 2009 where I received Bronze Medal at the World Student Games in Belgrade in 5 000m. Actually there’s where I decided to move over to the 5 000m. But like you said, I’ve got a little bit of speed, 1 500 spee., I’ve got a little bit of 800 speed and I’ve also got a little bit of endurance for the 10 000.
So for me it’s really the 5 000, it’s almost suitable for me. The past few years was a little bit of a struggle with the 5 000 but I told myself I really want to get hold of 5 000m. I’m not just going to let it go and actually from this year, things started to fall into place for me. Really to able me to run a really good 5 000m.
I think I went four weeks/five weeks back a 13:04. I came back with African Champs with a 13:15. So for me, I’m starting to get hold of this 5 000 how to actually run it. This is my perfect event, I’ve got a little bit of speed, I’ve got a little bit of endurance.
It falls right in the middle for me and especially like I said with the finals. It’s going to be a 52 seconds, 51 second last lap where my speed will maybe come in and play a big role. For me, I’m totally focused on the 5 000m. I think it’s suitable for me, it suits my body, it suits my training and it suits me as an athlete.
BB: Elroy, it’s quite interesting you talk about you’ve got a little bit of endurance as well. There’s been lots of talk over the years about how South African athletes struggle because there aren’t too many track meets here in SA and you have to run a lot of longer stuff, 10’s, 21’s on the road as well. Do you think that’s helped you and could be a bit of a secret weapon with regards to having that endurance?
EG: Yes, I think it helps a little bit. But you must be cautious sometimes not to overdo it with too much road running in South Africa. That’s why also, I’m very selective in some of my races, especially in South Africa when it comes to road races. I will have about 2-3 road races in SA. But the main focus will still be for me on the track.
If you look at quite a few athletes, they’re also doing a few road races, but their main focus is still on the track. It definitely helps there, the road races definitely helps, but I think you just must be cautious not to overdo it. Because sometimes these road races, they make you a little bit slower. They take away a little bit of your speed. But yes, it definitely helps you to improve on your endurance if it comes down to the 5 000m.
Confidence building among our athletes
BB: Elroy, let’s talk about Team South Africa from an athletics point of view and often success breeds success. It might not necessarily be in your event, but if you look at the team of athletes around you and the chances of medals. You look at what Wayde van Niekerk has done in the last while, he’s a phenomenal talent. Caster Semenya is running unbelievably well. You look at Akani Simbini and the 100m he had just the other day.
It must fill you with lots of confidence going into this event. Looking at your colleagues, so to speak, who are performing well on the global stage. It must fill you with confidence knowing hey, if they can do it. They’ve done the work, I’ve done the work too, I can do it as well.
EG: Yes, that is true, for me it’s really, we take a lot of motivation from these guys. Especially after last year when Wayde got a Gold Medal at the World Champs, that’s a lot of motivation. It’s almost like a chain reaction that he also leads for the other athletes. We can just see from there, performance nowadays.
Like Caster, she’s also running really well. I’m training with Caster in Potchefstroom, so she’s really a great motivation for me as well. Like you said, like Wayde and them. So I’m really expecting great things for Team South Africa athletics-wise. I think we can get a total of maybe three to maybe four medals, if we’re really lucky.
I think it will be really a great performance this year by Team South Africa in the athletics department. We’ve shown the past years now how the guys have improved their performances. They’re running world class performances. Like you said, like Akani this week, did a fantastic time. Those things are motivating us, even in the long jump there are a few guys that can really jump good and get a medal maybe.
What are Stephen Mokoka’s prospects?
BB: Talk to me about someone you’ve raced lots and lots, Stephen Mokoka, who is running the 10 000. I find it quite an interesting decision, I’m not complaining. I think he knows what he’s doing, 10 000 on the track. He’s proved himself as a half marathon and as a marathoner as well. How do you think he’s going to go in the 10 000?
EG: You know, Stephen is really a quality world class athlete. If he can really come out on the day, I think he can really do good. If I look at last year where he ran the, I think it was Great Manchester 10km where he ran 27:20-something. If everything works out on the day, I think he can really be up there with the guys. Stephen is a quality runner, he knows what he’s doing and why he’s running 10 000m.
I think he’s running this weekend, he’s running 5 000m in the Diamond Meet in Birmingham. I think maybe it’s to sharpen up his speed for the 10 000m. But on the day, if he’s there on the day, I think he can really do good. I know I heard him in an interview, he said he’s aiming for a top ten. But Stephen is a quality athlete, if he can be on the day, if everything works out, he can be in the top five at the Olympics.
BB: Elroy safe travels my friend, best of luck. I’m super jealous, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be at Olympic Games as an athlete. I’ve been lucky enough to go to one to watch, but I think it’s going to be an incredible experience. Something you’ve worked long and hard for, take it in, soak it up, but smash it out there mate. Looking forward to seeing you race in that 5 000m, it’s going to be an incredible race.
EG: Yes, thanks a lot Brad, I appreciate it.