Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
South African-born Talia Van Rooyen is a star among the new generation of track athletes.
The 16-year-old is clocking personal bests matching those of Zoe Hobbs and other young stars. She trains in Auckland with her parents, while her coach works remotely from South Africa.
She is the under-18 100m national champion, crossing the line in 11.67sec.
How did you get into athletics? In particular, track?
I used to watch my mum coach when I was little and did it at school but would always cry when I had to run. Then slowly I started liking it more and then started training for it. Now it's pretty much 70 per cent of my life. My mum is a part of my support team like my coach and my family. She's shown me dedication pays off. My coach's name is Owen van Niekerk — he lives in South Africa. My parents are my hands-on coaches here in New Zealand.
What is your training schedule like and how do you balance your school and social life?
I train six times a week — a mixture of gym and speed at the AUT Millennium. I keep my athletics and school/social side separate. Athletics gets 100 per cent of my attention when I'm in that environment and the same goes for school and social events.
Do you play any other sports?
I used to play hockey and worked my way to being the North Harbour captain. I played tag rugby for the New Zealand invitational team and touch rugby for a bit but preferred being more individual with athletics. I quit [hockey and tag] for a reason and with all the reoccurring injuries that were being treated when playing those sports. I wouldn't easily put my body through that again and then that's just jeopardising athletics.
What is something a lot of people don't know about track running and hurdles?
Hurdles are one of the most technical events on track in athletics and people don't realise the time and effort that goes behind the results.
What's the feeling of building up and preparing for a race that is over so quickly?
The great thing about athletics is really the anticipation from the build-up and in training where you see everything fall into place. Then the high after having an amazing race really ties everything together. But in Australia recently at Oceania Championships, I didn't necessarily trip but I couldn't make it through the race — it's an extremely frustrating and sad moment when all the hard work doesn't pay off because of the slightest movement.
What are your future goals and how will you get there?
Train. There's not much else to do, I can keep doing what's working which is training and getting my body to that point where I can compete at that level. I'm hoping to compete internationally a lot more and then hopefully the 2024 or 2028 Olympics.
How does a track star prepare for a race?
I only have to have good time management and a calm mind then everything falls into place. I always have to have my necklaces on as they have been for the last three years.