For a long time an ‘underdog’ in South African athletics, hard work and determination have seen Carina Horn become South Africa’s top female sprinter and representing South Africa at the Olympic Games in Rio.
In 2009 the then 19-year-old Horn’s performance of 11.81 seconds in the 100-metre final at the South African Championships was hardly noticed. There were, in fact, cynics who predicted that she did not have what it takes to become a top sprinter.
The Tuks/HPC athlete certainly proved them wrong. Nine years later she’s the co-holder of the South African 100m record (11.06) and there are predictions that she might become the first local female sprinter to dip under 11 seconds. It might even happen this weekend when Horn competes in the 100m. Heats are on Friday and final on Saturday. Horn is currently ranked 13th best sprinter in the IAAF Diamond League.
But she’s hesitant to make any bold predictions. ‘I’m confident that I will eventually, maybe sometime in the future, run a fast time, but I’m not sure when it is going to happen. That is very frustrating. I thought it would be at the London Diamond League Meeting but unfortunately I lost focus between 30 and 60 metres and that cost me. In a way I am glad that I did not run a best time in London because that might have made me slightly over confident at the Games. I have never been so motivated to succeed.’
What would happen if she should run a time faster than 11 seconds in the semi-final? Would it not feel like mission accomplished?
‘If it happens I will have to keep my emotions intact. I’m certainly not competing at the Games to run fast times in the semi-final. My goal is to compete in the final. That is what I have worked for. There will be ample time afterwards to celebrate a fast time,’ the she said.
In spite of having played provincial hockey for seven years and being a cricketer who was able to bowl at speeds of up to 125 kilometres per hour, Horn always had just one goal and that was to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games.
‘To me being an Olympian is living my ultimate dream. I was so serious about representing South Africa at the Olympic Games and World Championships that I stuck all sorts of motivational images and goals up against my bedroom wall to remind me why I was putting in the daily long hours and making so many sacrifices. For some time the number at the back of my bankcard – 1129 – served as extra motivation. That was the time I needed to run if I wanted to qualify for the 2012 Games in London.’
According to Horn her Austrian coach, Rainer Schopf, is the architect of her success.
‘Rainer approached me when I was, at best, an average athlete. I guess he saw something in me of which I was not even aware at that stage. What excited me was that he shared in my dream to race at the Olympics right from the start.
‘When Rainer was young he was a talented decathlete but unfortunately his career was curtailed by injuries. However, he remained passionate about athletics. Many of the things that helped me to qualify for the Games are training techniques he had worked out to improve his own athletics performances.’
Picture courtesy of Reg Caldecott