To commemorate 5 days to the start of Rio 2016 we shift our focus to the 5 hurdlers representing Team SA in this worldwide spectacle.

The long hurdles have always been a strong event for SA, and this year is no different; with the maximum allowed entrants in the men’s field and a strong contender in the woman’s event.

Wenda Nel has been one of the most consistent athletes in SA the past four years after narrowly missing the Olympic team in 2012. Consistency is something that is crucial in any major championship, anyone can have one good race but doing it three times in a row is what differentiates participants from medalists, especially in a race with ten obstacles. With the seventh best time this year of all athletes competing and running close to her personal best the past weekend shows that she is a definite medal contender in Rio.

LJ van Zyl is out to better his 5 th place performance from Beijing 2008. With a variety of medals in his illustrious career, the 5 rings on a medal is still something that escaped him in his 2 previous games appearances. With the signature Van Zyl speed over the last 80 meters finally making a comeback and with a few sub 49 performances from the veteran, we are surely in for a spectacle.

Joining Van Zyl is the two young talented qualifiers Lindsay Hanekom and Le Roux Hamman with limited international experience, but surely out to make an impact in Rio. With both running in their first Major championship, trying to learn as much as possible will be the key for the future. There will always be an outside chance for one of these two athletes to advance to the finals. With current World Champion Nicholas Bett yet to show his form, Denis Kudryavtsev missing the games because of the Russian ban and the 2016 world leader Jonny Dutch retiring after the US trials, there is no sure winner. Hurdles will always be one of the most unforgiving track events; you can be in the best shape of your life, knick a hurdle and lose rhythm. This also creates opportunities for the rest.

Being the only high hurdle contender in Team SA Antonio Alkana will have some eyes on him. The fact that he competed internationally the past two seasons will give him a great boost of confidence to take on the best in the world. I think Alkana is capable to be the first African below the magical barrier of 13 seconds in the near future. With enhanced technique in the perfect race this is surely a possibility. As the old saying goes, “there is no substitute for speed and this guy has some serious wheels”.

If there is ever a season with a chance for an outsider to make a name for himself, this is it. With Sergey Shubenkov (2015 World Champion) not able to compete due to the Russian ban, David Oliver (2013 World Champion), Jason Richardson (2011 World Champion) and World Record holder and reigning Olympic champion Aries Merritt missing out on the games.

The 110m hurdles podium is still very open and Alkana’s competition will most likely come from three nations: Jamaica, USA and France. With Pascal Martinot-Lagarde slowly getting back to his sub 13 shape and two European medalists in the French team they have a strong contingent to compete for medals. America is the most successful country in the 110m hurdles event at the games. With one of the most surprising selections, they will still always have a spot on the podium.

Look out for the Spaniard Orlando Ortega or Hansle Parchment from Jamaica to shine with Olympic final experience. With two tumbles in the last few weeks from World leader and games favorite Omar Mcleod, it just shows that anything can happen in a hurdles race.

We wish our hurdlers good luck. The whole country is behind you no matter the result. Be sure to support our hurdlers on the 15 th , 16 th and 18 th of August.