Rikenette Steenkamp: “I Am Very Thankful and Proud of Myself”

Olympian Rikenette Steenkamp takes a trip down memory lane, as she hangs up her spikes after almost 13 years on the track. Photo: Supplied

Olympian Rikenette Steenkamp takes a trip down memory lane, as she hangs up her spikes after almost 13 years on the track.

Over the years, the 30-year-old has been at the forefront on the track, as she has represented South Africa across the globe.

The 100m hurdler previously broke a 20-year standing national record at the Memorial Josefa Odlozila Meeting in Prague, where she clocked 12.91s. The previous record was set by Corien Botha, who recorded a time of 12.94s.

Now, after a tough decision to leave the track due to her struggles with chronic injuries, Steenkamp is looking to reinvent herself as she takes on a new chapter in her life.

In this brief chat, Steenkamp opens up to Rudene Hare about her journey and lessons she has taken away from sport.



Rikenette, thank you for chatting to us here at gsport! You have decided to hang up your spikes, please can you tell us about your decision to turn away from competing?

It was an extremely difficult decision for me. I would have to say the main reason was due to injury. After struggling with chronic injuries for the past two years I could not train at the level that was expected of me and expected of myself to perform at a certain level. Unfortunately I had to make that decision. If it was up to me I would still be running (laughing).


You have been the leading lady of the 100m hurdles since 2010 in South Africa. How does it feel knowing you leave the track behind with such a legacy?


I have to say it is a great feeling to look back and think of everything I have achieved. Just the journey I was on for the past 12 to 13 years. Yes it is a great feeling, I think as an athlete we are easily hard on ourselves and we always want to achieve more, but at the end of my career I can only look back. I am very thankful and proud of myself.


Besides winning four South African titles and one African title. What would you say are your other career achievements and why?

It’s difficult to say what my highest achievement was. For me, it is also has to be breaking the national record that was standing for 20 years. I think that was one of my highlights in my career. I have to just mention the other one winning the title at the World Cup. That’s also one of my highest achievements.


What lessons you have learnt from competing at international level?

You can learn how to really back yourself in situations and not to be intimidated by other athletes or even the crowd, but rather to use it as an advantage and to just enjoy the atmosphere. I think that’s one of the most amazing experiences, but it can be daunting in the beginning.


Over the years, who was your biggest competitor on the track and why?

I think this is a difficult question for me, because I think there have been many seasons of my career and also national and local athletes. I would say locally it would have been Claudia Heunis (née Viljoen), we were training partners but also we raced against each other, which was a great experience. Later, it was this youngster coming up Marioné Fourie. I wish we could have just competed against each other a bit longer.

Internationally, Isabelle Pedersen. We competed against each other for the first time at the World Youths and she won and I just missed out on the final of the race, but since then we have competed against each other every year in Europe. A few years later, I started beating her and it was like a rivalry between us which was just a great story of athletes that became friends.

She is also from Norway, she trained in South Africa a few times in Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom, and those times I used to go and learn from them, see how they train and sometimes maybe have a training session together, but on an international level I would definitely say Petersen.


What message would you like to give to corporate giants to encourage them to back women in sport? 

I believe there is an opportunity in South Africa to support women much more. Women’s sport globally is growing so much and I believe South Africa is a bit behind in comparison to the world. One of my questions is why? Women need the support, it will really empower women’s sport in South Africa much more. I believe it’s also an opportunity for them and like a corporate responsibility for them.


Lastly, what is next for Rikenette Steenkamp?

To be honest I am still figuring it out. Life after professional sport isn’t a given, it’s not simple – it’s like my whole life has changed. One of the very exciting things I can say is that I am getting married in two weeks, so that is obviously exciting and a new chapter in my life. I really want to stay involved in sport in some way. I would like to coach even though I am currently involved with coaching younger kids, but I am not sure of later if I will coach older kids or professionals. I don’t know to be honest (laughing).

For me in another sense, I am just looking forward to discovering a new passion of mine, things that I couldn’t do for a long time. I am really looking forward to doing that. That’s basically me, where I am at the moment still figuring out exactly what is next for me to be honest.



Photo 1 Caption: Olympian Rikenette Steenkamp takes a trip down memory lane, as she hangs up her spikes after almost 13 years on the track. Photo: Supplied

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