University of Johannesburg Olympics long jumper Lynique Prinsloo says a belief in your ability, allied to hard work and dreaming big are the keys to competing at an international level.
The 25-year-old education student, who represented South Africa at the Rio Games this year, was honoured last week by being named UJ Sportswoman of the Year.
Looking back on her year, which peaked with her trip to Brazil, she encouraged young athletes to realise that “nothing is impossible”.
“The Olympics was one of my biggest dreams and I just kept working hard towards that, even though, at some point, it seemed really far-fetched,” said Prinsloo.
“They say if your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough. So I felt scared at times, but I just kept on believing and working hard, and now I can say I am an Olympian.”
The UJ star, who has a strong religious faith and an unwavering belief in her coach Emmarie Fouche, was quick to add that success only came over an extended period of commitment.
“Getting to the Olympics was literally due to the work I have put in throughout my athletics career. In Afrikaans we say ‘byt vas’ and never stop believing that with hard work and determination anything is possible.”
Having grown up in Springs, Prinsloo now stays in the UJ residence of Afslaan on the Auckland Park campus.
She is happy that her connection with UJ and the mentoring ability of Fouche have helped to advance her athletics career.
Experts feel the student-athlete has the ability to reach the significant mark of seven metres and Prinsloo confirmed that was something she was aiming for.
Her personal best is 6.81m set in Stellenbosch in 2013, while the women’s world record stands at 7.52m, set by Galina Chistyakova of the former Soviet Union in 1988.
“I do think I can jump seven meters, but there is a lot of work to be done till then,” she said. “It is a goal for me and coach Emmarie, who is the best in the business and a massive help.
“Next year I will focus on the world championships in London and to jump well on a consistent basis. I would also like to get more exposure in Diamond League meetings.”
Having achieved some success, Prinsloo said she would not be making any drastic changes to her training regimen.
“I am just going to keep following the advice of my coach and the medical team. I have been under Emmarie for only a year and we know what to work on technically as there is much room for improvement.”
Prinsloo said her Olympic Games experience opened her eyes to the mental challenges which you faced at an international level.
“I knew I was physically prepared and also thought I was mentally prepared as I had some big competitions before the Games.
“But when the moment came it was all too overwhelming. We also did not know how my body would react to jetlag as this was my first time travelling across so many time zones.
“So I learnt a lot about how to adapt when the situation is not as good as expected.”
Prinsloo said it was important for Athletics South Africa (ASA) to ensure the athletes received more exposure to international competition.
“I find that when we compete at that level the SA athletes are often more star-struck than anything else.
“Athletes also require greater funding but I do know that ASA are working hard to improve that and to get systems in place to support the athletes. So that is a big positive.”
Reflecting on her most recent achievement at UJ she said it was “a shock” to receive the Sportswoman of the Year award.
“I am truly honoured and this is a huge stepping-stone in my career.
“We work so hard as athletes to achieve success and it is great when your attempts are acknowledged. This sort of thing motivates you to keep working hard in the sport you love.”