Yané van der Merwe is aiming to represent South Africa on the world stage at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, as she continues to rack up the experience and achievements.
Shifting her attention from Javelin and Shotput, to fully focus on Discus, the University of Johannesburg student is currently third on the rankings and is aiming for top spot. Her performances improved by 5 meters in the past year, proving her determination to achieve her Paralympic goal.
The talented student athlete caught the attention of South Africa at age 17, when she broke the U/18 Javelin record at the SA Championships for the physically disabled, at the Westbourne Oval in Port Elizabeth.
To date, she has competed at the World Para Athletic Junior Championships in Switzerland, placing third in Javelin U20, and the IWAS 2017 competition in Portugal, where she placed first in Javelin, third in Shotput U18 and fourth in Discus in the Open Class category.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, van der Merwe chats about drawing inspiration from wheelchair tennis champion, Kgothatso Montjane and reveals what keeps her motivated.
Yané, thank you for taking time out to chat! How has the year started off for you?
I started the year on a positive note, looking forward to all the new opportunities that the year has to offer. Although Javelin is still my favourite, I had to move my focus to discus for the Paralympics 2021.
2020 was a difficult year for us all. What was the most challenging for you?
The most challenging was not being able to practice with my coach on a regular basis. Finding alternative ways to stay fit at home. Although I had an exercise program to follow, it was difficult to stay motivated. Not being able to practice technique in the discus circle was also challenging.
How were you able to keep yourself motivated to focus on your academics and training?
I was determined on what I wanted to achieve and set weekly and monthly goals to stay motivated and make sure that I achieved the set goals. I approached my academics in the same way.
On a normal, what does a day in the life of Yané look like?
On a normal day, I will start with an early morning session in the gym, followed by attending University classes. I then assist with training at Hope School for the physically disabled, and go on to have a technique session with my coach. Evenings are set aside for studies and some relaxation with friends.
Please tell us where your passion for sports developed.
“I participated in all field items and my teacher saw my potential and helped me to develop.” – Para-athlete, Yané van der Merwe
My passion for sport started at a young age, in Primary School. I participated in all field items and my teacher saw my potential and helped me to develop and created a love for athletics.
What was it about javelin that caught your attention?
Having a good throwing arm allowed me to perform in Javelin from a very young age. This created a love for the sport.
When and where was your first javelin competition, and how did it pan out?
My first disabled competition was at the age of 17 where I broke the U/18 Javelin record at the South African Championships for the physically disabled, that took place at the Westbourne Oval in Port Elizabeth.
Where do you stand in your chances of representing South Africa at the Tokyo Paralympics this year?
Discus is the only item that I can compete in at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and that is why I moved my focus. (Javelin and shotput is not offered for participation at the Games). I am on the long list, currently laying third, but working very hard to improve my performance and getting closer to the top spot. I improved my personal best with 5 meters in the past year.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
Taking part in Switzerland at the World Para Athletic Junior Championships and placing third in Javelin U/20 for F44 / F46 athletes, with a distance of 27,92 meters. IWAS 2017 – that took place in Portugal – was also a highlight, where I placed first in Javelin and third in Shotput for Women U/18, and fourth in Discus for Women Open class.
Which female sport stars do you admire, and why?
I admire Kgothatso Montjane because she was the first disabled South African women to compete at Wimbeldon. She has not allowed her disability to hold her back. She inspires me to reach my goals despite my disability.
What keeps you motivated?
To achieve my goals and maximize my ability keeps me motivated, as well as the love for athletics.
What are your plans for 2021?
To perform to the best of my ability under the current circumstances. Setting new records at the SA Championships for the physically disabled, and taking part at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2021.
Photo 1 caption: Tokyo Paralympic Games hopeful Yané van der Merwe has shifted her attention from Javelin and Shotput to focus on Discus, as it is the only discipline open to her at the Games. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 caption: Van der Merwe burst onto the scene at age 17 when she broke the U/18 Javelin record at the SA Championships for the Physically Disabled, at the Westbourne Oval in Port Elizabeth. Photo: Supplied