“Records are there to be broken, it’s never yours, but you have a choice – either you accept something, or react to something, so I definitely take it as motivation.”
South African sprinter Ilse Hayes will line up in the 400m at this week’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin, Germany (16 - 17 July) as she prepares to go for double gold at Rio 2016.
Hayes, who competes in the T13 class for visually impaired athletes, is more at home running the 100m sprint - but with the 400m on the schedule at September’s Paralympic Games, she is determined to make every race between now and then count.
“It’s kind of new for me,” admitted the 30-year-old. “But I kind of surprised myself with the 400m I did at the beginning of the year – I did a 56.20 which I didn’t think I was going to run.
“For me now it’s about being consistent during the race – get my first 200m in at a certain time then going through the rest of the race.
“I’m not an experienced 400m athlete so I think I can really stuff it up in the first 200m – it’s really technical and I’m not experienced. I’m doing two 400m races in this European trip so the big focus is to be consistent in the first 200m and set up the race.
“Hopefully I can get my rhythm then and take it through - and hopefully it will be a successful one in Rio.”
Hayes is not without her rivals however, and over one lap in Rio de Janeiro she will face in-form Frenchwoman Nantenin Keita, who ran a season’s best 56.63 to win World Championship gold last October, then added the European title in June this year clocking 56.30.
Hayes focussed on the shorter sprints at Doha 2015, winning double gold in the 100m and 200m. But even the 100m has since thrown up a thrilling rivalry.
The multiple world and Paralympic champion lost her 100m world record to Leilia Adzhametova at May’s Nottwil Grand Prix in Switzerland when the Ukrainian clocked 11.82 - knocking 0.07 off the mark Hayes set in April last year.
Hayes was back competing in Europe again last week (Friday 8 July), when she raced 11.97 at a meeting in Leverkusen, Germany.
The Stellenbosch-based sprinter admits that the result in Switzerland seven weeks ago has given her plenty of motivation – and she cannot wait to line up against the Ukrainian again.
“Records are there to be broken, it’s never yours, but you have a choice – either you accept something, or react to something, so I definitely take it as motivation,” she said.
“I regret not doing the 100m in Berlin as I’ve heard Leilia is going to be there – I’m doing the 200m and 400m there. But we will meet again in Rio.”
With the emergence of Adzhametova, Hayes knows that Paralympic victory will not come easily. A personal best – and consequently a new world record – is now a key aim.
“If conditions play well and my plan works out the way I want it to, then a personal best is definitely on the cards,” added Hayes.
“It’s the world stage so that would be ideal. If you can do that in front of a huge crowd like that and it all comes together in that one race then I think you’ve had a good year!”
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin will feature around 430 athletes from 58 countries, and takes place one week before the Grand Prix Final in London, Great Britain.