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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Charlotte van Veenendaal aiming for Rio Olympics in a new event

Charlotte van Veenendaal aiming for Rio Olympics in a new event

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Australian sprinter Charlotte van Veenendaal aiming for Rio Olympics in a new event

Jamie Pandaram
The Daily Telegraph
December 21, 2012

After a series of setbacks Charlotte van Veenendaal is back on track and relishing the challenge of qualifying
for the Rio Olympic Games. Picture: Phil Hillyard Source: The Daily Telegraph

SHE was given every reason to quit, but sprinter Charlotte van Veenendaal has instead chosen one of the most difficult paths in athletics: qualifying for the Olympic Games in a completely new event.

True to her "love of a challenge", the 100m and 200m sprinter is now targeting the 400m race at the 2016 Games, months after a series of setbacks nearly saw her walk away from her dreams.

Van Veenendaal, 24, makes no bold predictions and refuses to talk up her chances, but there is a steely resolve as she outlines her plan to run in Rio. "I am running 54.5seconds now, that isn't going to get me into a major event," van Veenendaal says.

"If I get down to 53, that puts me in a good place for the following year. I have got four years of learning and training.

"I don't know what the next four years will hold. I could tell you what would happen in an ideal world, but the world is not ideal.

"My aim is to make majors every year, so the world champs next year, the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the world champs again and then the Olympics. And I want to improve my performances every year."

Athletics very nearly lost van Veenendaal this year.

She was chosen as part of Australia's women's 4x100m relay team for the London Games alongside Sally Pearson, Melissa Breen, Hayley Butler and Jessica Knox. But shortly before the Games began Australia was bumped out of the mandatory top 16 qualification ranking and her hopes had been shattered.

The next day, van Veenendaal's coach Adam Larcom revealed he would be quitting to focus on his business interests.Suddenly van Veenendaal, who has struggled for years with stress fractures in her feet and a mixed run with various coaches in different cities, was about to throw in the towel.

But after returning to the practice track, she realised her desire to compete was overwhelming, and she is now bound for Brazil under the tutelage of new coach, legendary former News Ltd athletics writer Mike Hurst.

Van Veenendaal sports an impressive physique honed from torturous training and a diet free of dairy, processed foods and sugar, gluten, bread and pasta. No doubt genetics also played a part, with van Veenendaal's parents Theo and Catherine both former competitive sprinters.

Van Veenendaal is channelling her energies to the 400m, having run the distance just twice competitively, but has not given up on the 200m and 4x100m for Rio.

"I love the sport, everything about it," she says.

"I just want to be seen as an athlete enjoying what I do.

"I have been through a lot and I would encourage any young athlete to talk to me if they need advice. I want to perform at my best, but give back as well."

Australian sprinter Charlotte Van Veenedaal at Homebush. Picture: Phil Hillyard Source: The Daily Telegraph

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