“Throw me to the wolves, and I’ll come back leading the pack”, the words of four time schools and clubs 800m champ, Jana van der Merwe. Besides being addicted to watching series, she seems to be addicted to SA titles. Her winning streak stretches from 2011-2014 and it seems that there is no stopping her.
It all started when she saw her older sister, Izelle van der Merwe, also doing athletics when she was still at school. “I’ve always wanted to run just like her. I have many role models, like Danel Prinsloo and my coach Elise Viljoen, but I can definitely say that my sister has inspired me from a young age to do athletics”. Jana started running in grade 3 and in grade 5/6 she realised her passion for the sport.
In 2013 she represented South Africa at the World Youth Champs in Donetsk, with training partner and fellow Randburg athlete Carina Viljoen who ran the 1500m. Talking about Carina… van der Merwe says that second to her coach (Elise Viljoen), Carina is the person with the best heart. “After my injury last year my coach was the only one that motivated me not to give up, but to hold on and keep on. She handled me like her own child”. Elise Viljoen started coaching van der Merwe since she was 13 and this trio of Elise, Carina and Jana seems to be an unbeatable winning recipe.
After World Youth she says that she realised that there is still plenty of hard work that lies ahead, and that it served as a wakeup call that there will always be someone that can beat you at that which you are best at. “It was an amazing experience and I’ll put in many more hours (and kilo’s) to get that experience again”. Her personal bests are 57 – 400m, 2:09 – 800m and 4:38 – 1500m. With athletes like Lebo Phalula, Caster Semenya, Anusckha Niic, Danel Prinsloo, Gena Lofstrand, Thato Makhafola and Monique Stander all running great 800m’s, we’ll be hoping to see van der Merwe right up there with them very soon!
“I know that my time will come down. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. Athletics is more than just running, it’s a dream being lived out! But I’d rather die with memories, than dying with a dream” – Jana van der Merwe
EC Media Manager – Adriaan Aldridge