Last year Rikenette Steenkamp from TuksAthletics had to relearn how to walk properly and this year she might just become the second South African female athlete to dip under 13 seconds in the 100m-hurdles.
If she does it would be one of the ultimate comebacks in South African athletics proving that any setback can be overcome if there is a will to do so.
Steenkamp is not one who wants to commit to running definite times at definite meetings. She knows she has the ability to do run a sub 13 seconds race. It is just a question of where and when it is going to happen.
The one thing she has learnt over the last two years while she was unable to race is that life is a journey.
“I just want to enjoy the journey and make the most of all the experiences I have along the way,” said Steenkamp who was in matric in 2010 at Hoërskool Menlopark when she won the South African Junior and Senior titles in the 100m-hurdles.
In 2014 in Marrakech she raced to a time of 13.16s. Only five South African athletes have managed to run faster times. Corien Botha who set a new South African record in 1998 running 12.98s is the only local athlete so far to dip under 13 seconds.
Earlier this season Steenkamp proved that she is in good form when she raced to a time of 13.14s at a meeting at the University of Johannesburg. Unfortunately the wind from behind was too strong for her time to be officially recognized. What was remarkable about her performance is the fact that it was only her second race after a two year absence from competitive racing.
2015 was certainly a year of utter frustration for Steenkamp. She was basically constantly in pain and barely able to train. Last year she found out that she had an extra bone in her ankle. The former Springbok lock, Bakkies Botha, apparently had the same problem. The only solution was to have the bone surgically removed.
As part of the rehabilitation process Steenkamp was afterwards confined to bed rest for six weeks thereafter she had to relearn how to walk properly again. Swimming was the first proper exercise she was allowed to do. Only in September last year she was allowed to start doing athletics again.
Steenkamp admits there were times she really wondered whether she would ever be able to race again.
“The one thing that kept me going is that I feel I was born to run. There is also the matter of unfinished business on the track. I have certain definite goals I still want to achieve.”
She credits her recent fast times she has run to her coach, Hennie Kriel.
“He is an amazing coach who knows how to get any athlete to believe in his ability’s and he is able to motivate us in setting high goals. He does not believe in mediocracy. Being part of training group which includes the likes of Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai (both Olympian sprinters) is also inspiring. As group we really tend to push each other to work that bit harder during every training session,” said the blonde speedster.
Steenkamp is also busy with her master’s degree. Her theme is: The need for leadership and role models in South African women’s sport.
“I honestly believe that as an athlete I got an obligation to leave a legacy behind for younger athletes. When I started out as a young athlete I sorely missed having a role model to inspire me. Once I have finished my career as a competitive athlete I really want to get involved helping younger athletes, especially female athletes. I want them to understand that if at first they don’t succeed they should not get despondent. They should stick it out hard work and dedication does pay off,” said Steenkamp