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  • Writer's pictureAnnie Bothma

Don't let nobody tell you otherwise

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Read Rivaldo Roberts, one of South Africa's leading 400m Hurdles athlete's story.

  • 110M Youth and Junior Champion

  • African Junior Bronze

  • Third Fastest Time for any Junior in South Africa in 2015

I was a normal kid. Did sport when I was little, and I remember watching a program on SABC 3 that compared athletes to animals. Llewellyn Herbert was one of the athletes that they compared. I instantly fell in love with athletics and more specifically hurdles.

Never ran super fast, but I've always had the dream. I was going to make a team and no one was going to tell me otherwise.

Well, a lot of people told me otherwise. They said I will never make the team. MAYBE I will make the high school team, but if I make it, I will bench. Don't do track. "You're not good enough." "You're not strong enough." "You're not fast enough." I've heard it all!

I kept my head down and just kept grinding. I told my aunt. Listen: "I am going to Ukraine and no one is stopping me!!"


My times didn't show and it was the qualifying year. On top of it allI, I had a back injury and couldn't run properly. One day the school got angry at me because of it and I just unleashed something I never even knew I had. After that I couldn't stopped. A burning feeling to prove people wrong. In only a month, I dropped my times with 1.4 sec. In a short sprint - THAT IS A LOT! Later I won national youth championships with a qualifying time for the world youths. I did it. I thought I proved them all wrong

I didn't

I finished 27th at the championships and prior to writing my story, I haven't mentioned it to anyone. A week before the champs I tore my hamstring. I couldn't even walk properly let alone run!

After world youths, I dropped my PB another 0.2 sec. I decided work for the following year and set my sights on Eugene to compete at the world juniors. I worked so hard. I was the favorite going into nationals, but I was running against the South African record holder. It was always going to be a tight race and I expected it. He dipped me at the end giving me silver and a new personal best. But missed junior qualification by 0.01 sec.

I was devastated.

But life goes on. That year I got selected for the Region V Games in Zimbabwe and placed 1st. A few months later I made the African junior team. Finally, the frustration paid off. Little did I know more frustration was coming my way. I pulled my hamstring before African champs, but I still ran a PB.

I knew I was in good the shape when African champs came. I went into the race as favourite to medal. I cruised through the heats in the second fastest time run by a junior in South Africa. My mind started to shift toward the South African Record. I knew I was only 0.15 from it. Our team managed a bronze in the 4x100 relay and had the medal ceremony just before my race. I rushed to the call room and didn't get to warm up. The wind was intense and it was blowing against us. It was recorded at 3.4m/s. I had a great start in that race but unfortunately, but I panicked and lost focus. It cost me gold and I had to settle for bronze.

Height started to play a role. I made the decision to switch events and I started with the 400H. The first offseason was horrible. Every day was painful and hard at the beginning. I suffered, but as time went on I improved so much and I will keep on improving. Every day there's a new challenge, but I believe strongly in my team and with their support I know I can reach the top of the ranks again.

- Rivaldo

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