L. J. van Zyl

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Louis Jacobus van Zyl (born 20 July 1985), better known as L. J. van Zyl, is a South African athlete competing in the 400 metre hurdles. He is the South African record holder in the event with a personal best of 47.66 seconds, which he achieved twice, three months apart. His time ranks him in the all-time top 25. He is a three-time African Champion in the event and competed for his country at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

L. J. van Zyl
L. J. van Zyl Daegu 2011.jpg
Personal information
Born (1985-07-20) 20 July 1985 (age 34)
Bloemfontein, South Africa
Height1.82 m (5 ft 11 12 in)
Weight79 kg (174 lb)
Country South Africa
Event(s)400 metre hurdles
4 × 400m Relay

He was the 2002 World Junior Champion over 400 m hurdles and reached the World Championships final at the age of twenty in 2005. His breakthrough into the senior ranks came in 2006 when he won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and African Championships, as well as silver medals at the IAAF World Cup and IAAF World Athletics Final. He became the All-Africa Games champion in 2007. He came fifth in the 2008 Olympic final.

He married South African long-distance runner Irvette van Blerk in 2012.[1]


Born in Bloemfontein, his first international medal came at the 2001 World Youth Championships in Athletics, where he took the bronze with South Africa in the Swedish medley relay.[2] He won the gold medal in his speciality at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Athletics, but did not medal in his attempt to defend the title at the 2004 competition. His international breakthrough came at the World Athletics Final in 2005, when he finished third.

The next year he won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games with a new personal best time of 48.05 seconds, which was a new Games record. He also won a silver medal in 4×400 m relay with the South African team. Later that year he claimed his first continental title with a win at the 2006 African Championships in Athletics. He came near his best with a run of 48.08 seconds at the 2006 IAAF World Athletics Final, finishing as runner-up, and secured another silver medal at the 2006 IAAF World Cup.

He was off colour in 2007, being eliminated in the heats at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics and finishing eighth at the 2007 IAAF World Athletics Final. However, he did manage to win the hurdles title at the 2007 All-Africa Games in Algiers that July.[3] He rebounded the following year and retained his title at the 2008 African Championships and earned a place on the South African Olympic team. Van Zyl came fifth in the 400 m hurdles final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and also ran as part of the national relay team. His clocking of 48.22 seconds at the Athens Grand Prix Tsiklitiria made him the fourth fastest in the event that year.[4]

He was eliminated in the semi-finals at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, despite entering the competition with the fastest time of the year.[5] He ended the year on a positive note with a silver medal behind Kerron Clement (the new world champion) at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Final.

Van Zyl set the South African record of 47.66 seconds at an athletics meeting in Pretoria on 25 February 2011, improving upon Llewellyn Herbert's former mark.[6] He made a large improvement upon his 400 m sprint best a month later, taking almost a second off his former best with a run of 44.86 sec at a Yellow Pages Series meeting.[7]

Van Zyl won a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics but again he entered the competition with not only the fastest but the 4 fastest times of the year so perhaps a disappointing result.[8] He later won a silver with the South African team in the 4x400m relay.



Van Zyl at the 2008 Bislett Games.
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing   South Africa
2001 World Youth Championships Debrecen, Hungary 3rd Medley relay 1:51.35
2002 World Junior Championships Kingston, Jamaica 1st 400m hurdles 48.89 (CR)
6th (h)[10] 4×400m relay 3:07.65
2004 World Junior Championships Grosseto, Italy 4th 400 m h 49.06
3rd 4×400 m relay 3:04.50 (AJR)
2005 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 6th 400 m h 48.54
13th (h) 4×400 m relay 3:04.64
World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 3rd 400 m h 48.11
2006 Commonwealth Games Melbourne, Australia 1st 400 m h 48.05 (CR)
2nd 4×400 m relay 3:01.84
African Championships Bambous, Mauritius 1st 400 m h 49.43
World Athletics Final Stuttgart, Germany 2nd 400 m h 48.08
World Cup Athens, Greece 2nd 400 m h 48.35
2007 All-Africa Games Algiers, Algeria 1st 400 m h 48.74
4×400 m relay DNF
World Championships Osaka, Japan 23rd (h) 400 m h 49.71
2008 African Championships Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1st 400 m h 48.91
1st 4×400 m relay 3:03.58
Olympic Games Beijing, China 5th 400 m h 48.32
9th (h) 4×400 m relay 3:01.26
2009 World Championships Berlin, Germany 9th (sf) 400 m h 48.80
14th (h) 4×100 m relay 39.71
2010 African Championships Nairobi, Kenya 1st 400 m h 48.51
Commonwealth Games Delhi, India 2nd 400 m h 48.63
Continental Cup Split, Croatia 5th 400 m h 49.97
2011 World Championships Daegu, South Korea 3rd 400 m h 48.80
2nd 4×400 m relay 2:59.87
2012 African Championships Porto Novo, Benin 8th 400 m h DNF
Olympic Games London, United Kingdom 34th (h) 400 m h 50.31
8th 4×400 m relay 3:03.46
2013 World Championships Moscow, Russia 25th (h) 400 m h 50.05
2014 Commonwealth Games Glasgow, United Kingdom 9th (h) 400 m h 50.07
African Championships Marrakech, Morocco 4th 400 m h 49.79
2015 World Championships Beijing, China 15th (sf) 400 m h 48.89
2016 African Championships Durban, South Africa 4th 400 m h 49.46
3rd 4 × 400 m relay 3:04.73
Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 12th (sf) 400 m h 49.00
2018 Commonwealth Games Gold Coast, Australia 17th (h) 400 m h 50.98

Personal bestsEdit

  • 400 metres – 44.86 s (2011)
  • 400 metres hurdles – 47.66 s (2011)
  • 200 metres hurdles-22.10(1.8 m/s)WR


  1. ^ Finch, Mike (2012-07-26). The Story Of LJ And Irvette Archived 30 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Runner's World. Retrieved on 2013-04-22.
  2. ^ "World Youth Championships 2001". Wjah.co.uk. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  3. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070928023101/http://www.coja2007.dz/portail/programme/Results.html?discipId=ath&compId=COMP72. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "2008 Toplists 400h m - o". iaaf.org. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  5. ^ "12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics - Berlin 2009 - Event Report - Men's 400m Hurdles - Semi-Final". Berlin.iaaf.org. 16 August 2009. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Van Zyl clocks 47.66 South African 400m Hurdles record in Tshwane". iaaf.org. 26 February 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Van Zyl impresses in 400m flat!". iaaf.org. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  8. ^ "2011 Toplists 400h m - o". iaaf.org. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Focus on Athletes - L.J. van Zyl". iaaf.org. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  10. ^ Disqualified in the final.

External linksEdit