Zim decathlete shines in SA

Zimbabwean national decathlete Keegan Cooke competed in an open athletics competition held at the Dal Josaphat Stadium in Paarl, Western Cape, at the weekend. Despite severely windy conditions that made a mess of his throwing events he managed to place first in both the 110m hurdles and the Pole-vault. The highlight being a new personal best and 4.60m clearance in the pole vault that has now broken the Zimbabwean national record formerly held by Glenn Barrett, who jumped 4.56m in Australia back in 2009.

This is a great start to the season for Cooke, who competes in a multi-disciplinary event – the decathlon. Currently gearing up for the decathlon season, Cooke is based in South Africa (although off-season and pre-season is spent in Zimbabwe where he does the foundational part of his training).

The Boland Athletics Championships are next on the season agenda, being held on the 10th and 11th of March. Cooke hopes this upcoming performance will afford him the opportunity to qualify again for the SA national championships, where last year he placed 2nd, and the IAAF combined events challenge in Mauritius where he hopes to better his performance after last year’s challenges. There is also the possibility of making the cut for another IAAF challenge in June held in Kladno, Czech Republic.

Cooke’s comments:

“ There are a lot of people to thank in this journey. I’ve had my eye on the Zim record for the last four or so years. In that time it’s been a combination of efforts that have led to this result. Simply put, if it were not for my wife and her continued support I’m doubtful I would still be training- she is a foundational pillar for the dreams we feel called to chase. There are also many coaches and mentors, but Seef Le Roux and Jean-Paul van As have extended an opportunity for us to succeed in the decathlon and the pole vault. Their time and dedication to our journey is truly a gift from above that we don’t want to take for granted”.

His coach Jean-Paul van As commented:
“I’m really happy with Keegan’s performance this afternoon. Height wise we are ahead of schedule. Getting a 4.60m clearance on a shorter pole and shorter run up is a good indication that some important pole vault basics are now in place. This means we can now increase the run up and grab some bigger poles, which will most certainly give us even better heights! Keegan trains hard and is very focused, which most definitely adds to his success. A 40cm improvement on his previous best in a couple of months working together testifies that we are on the right track. I’m excited for what Keegan will achieve in the remainder of the season and beyond, I know he can achieve even better heights which will place him firmly amongst the top international decathletes in the pole-vault”.

Cooke said: “We have received ratification from the competition officials in Paarl, they are now corresponding with NAAZ. Once this is confirmed we can officially celebrate, but I don’t want to get stuck in this moment- there is more in the tank and we would like to make greater heights. As excited as we are, we need to refocus”.

“I’m eager to get set up in Zimbabwe with an athletics club and share what I’m learning with the next up and coming generation of athletes. I’ve got a feeling we hold a lot of potential in the technical events- seeing a young group of Zimbabwean men and woman make international standards in events like pole vault, hurdles or discus is within our reach. I know NAAZ is making and advance on the possibilities of such dreams coming true, it would be great to work alongside the governing body of athletics”.

“Its important to stay appreciative no matter if it’s an up or down moment – this sport is riddled with ebbs and flows that can mess your heart if its not firmly planted in the bigger picture”

Last year Cooke and his wife faced a nightmare at the African Champs and Olympic qualifiers. They drove down to Durban from Zimbabwe with their equipment and training gear and after the first two events they returned to find their car and everything for their training had been stolen. Amongst the gear was a full set of hurdles and all the throwing implements for the junior and high school kids.

Cooke says “I am, in some way, thankful for those moments-they level you, steer you away from materialism- we were not held up at gun point- things could have been exponentially worse. A good friend of mine, Gabriel Mvumvure, who has represented Zimbabwe at the highest levels in the short sprints, has been battling for his life after the Olympics- he is desperate need of a kidney transplant. Perspective.”

Cooke is unsure what the long-term goals are. Olympics have always been the aim but funding and a good support team are necessary. With a baby on the way Cooke and his wife want to make sure that family is their main focus. Cooke says its not impossible to give top priority to his family and continue to train in the 10 event discipline- but at some point he wants to be in Zimbabwe where he can raise his children and work with the local athletes.

Post published in: Athletics

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