“I think it will take everything to beat Rehm,” he said. “The biggest thing I need is more time."
Dutch world silver medallist Ronald Hertog is determined to improve on his personal best as he prepares to challenge world number one F44 long jumper Markus Rehm for the European title this month.
With the IPC Athletics European Championships (18-23 August) less than two weeks away, Hertog is hoping that the recent spell of warm sunny weather experienced throughout the British Isles will continue long enough to help him put in a winning performance.
“I'm definitely aiming for a personal best in Swansea,” said Hertog. “This should be do-able because we haven't had a lot of luck with the weather on the continent. I did a lot of competitions in the rain and into a strong headwind.
“If the conditions are less than perfect I will be aiming for 7m, if they are good, who knows what could happen!”
However Hertog will face a tough test against the German world number one, who clinched gold at the IPC Athletics World Championships last summer ahead of the Dutchman with a remarkable leap of 7.95m, beating the world best he set at the 2012 Paralympic Games by 60cm.
If that jump in Lyon was not enough to already seal Rehm’s place as the clear favourite in Swansea, the two-time world champion leapt in to the history books again in late July, jumping a phenomenal 8.24m to win gold at the able-bodied German National Championships.
But Hertog is not fazed by his rival’s exploits; the 25-year-old has a long term focus, plus the patience – and experience - to recognise that success does not happen overnight.
Formerly a world class javelin thrower - and bronze medallist at the Paralympic Games two years ago - Hertog had to give up on that event due to persistent shoulder problems, and has made the transition to long jump seem effortless.
“I think it will take everything to beat Rehm,” he said. “The biggest thing I need is more time.
“I've only been focussing on long jump for the past two years, whereas Rehm has been jumping since 2008 I think. So of course he has a head start, but I'm keen on getting closer. I keep track of his performances, the same way he keeps track of mine.
“I enjoyed javelin a lot. I’ve won a medal in that in every major competition there is. Of course I sometimes miss the javelin. There is no feeling like hitting the sweet spot during a throw. But on the other hand, when I hit the sweet spot in long jump, it gives me the same satisfaction.”
Whilst Hertog is employing a long–term strategy in his approach to the long jump, he recognises that Swansea is a vital stage in that process.
“I know the jumping is going to be very exciting. I’ve broken the seven metre mark a couple of times already as my PB is now 7.25m. My goal is to beat Markus in Rio, so at the moment I'm focussing on improving in Swansea. I think that will be good for a silver medal.
“I certainly enjoy a fellow competitor like Rehm, although our PBs are far apart, I do aim for his performances.”
A recent injury has not dampened Hertog’s spirits either – bruising to his pelvis meant no jumping in early July, but he was instead able to focus on speed work, not only for the benefit of his long jump.
Hertog also lines up in the 100 and 200m T44, and believes that although Great Britain’s Jonnie Peacock may have the edge, the battle for silver and bronze should prove just as thrilling, with another in-form German, Felix Streng, improving his personal best in the sprints this season.
“The challenge will be a very hard one,” he said. “Peacock is a step too far, but me and Felix are challenging each other in a lot of competitions. I think winning a medal will take 11.35 seconds. My guess is that the winner will run 10.89.”
As for the 200m – a distance traditionally packed with talented Americans at world level – Hertog is determined to make his mark: “My aim is not for a place, but a time beneath the 23 second mark,” he added. “Even with the absence of the Americans, the 200m is going to be very exciting. I hope I can keep up with Felix, as I predict he will win.”
While Hertog might be tipping others to take the glory, do not underestimate the talent and ability of the man himself. It is a safe bet that he will be returning to the Netherlands with at least one medal round his neck.
Hertog will be one of 560 athletes from 39 countries competing at the Swansea 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships between 18-23 August.
Tickets for the event at Swansea University are now on-sale and can be purchased via the Swansea 2014. Prices start from £3 per session.