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Du Plessis, youngest finalist in SA history

Julia Du Plessis

Julia Du Plessis

Tuesday, 24 July 2012 – At the past World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Julia du Plessis officially became the youngest South African athlete in the history of athletics to reach a final at World Junior level.

The Championships took place from 10-15 July and was aimed at athletes aged 18 and 19.  The only other athlete in history to compete at the World Junior Championships at the age of 16 was Stefan Brits in the men’s long jump, but he did not make the final.

Julia du Plessis, a 16 year-old from Krugersdorp, is already being compared to the likes of SA Youth and Junior record holder Charmaine Gail, and Hestrie Cloete, two times Olympic silver medallist.  “I am trying not to focus on that because I am my own person. I still have to achieve what they have done a long time ago, but I do believe that I have the potential to get there,” said Julia.

She competed at Yellow Pages II in Potchefstroom on 24 March where she finished 2nd with 1.86m. The 26 year-old SA Senior Champion, Anika Smit, won the event with a height of 1.89m.  Du Plessis’s best performance of the season was at the SA Junior, Youth and schools Championships, where she won with 1.88m. She also represented South Africa at the Southern Region Junior Championships in Namibia, winning with 1.75m, before heading to the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain where she finished 12th in the final.

She has been an achiever from a very young age.  Du Plessis holds the under 10 SA Record and Gauteng u11 and 12 Records. Some titles include Gauteng Champion from 2006-2011 in her age categories (u10-u15), SA u10 and u15 Champion, as well as the SA Games title in Polokwane in 2011.

Du Plessis is the youngest of three children and comes from an athletic family.  “My uncle Pieter Durandt played Provincial rugby from 1980-1990 while my mother did athletics in school and my dad played cricket. Sport is in our blood,” said du Plessis.  Her brother (18) recently played rugby at Craven Week in Potchefstroom.

“I was very privileged to get an opportunity to represent South Africa in Barcelona,” was Julia’s answer on what it meant to her.  Her goals are to represent South Africa at the World Youth Championships in Ukraine next year and the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Du Plessis was not the only youth athlete to compete at the Championships.  The team also included Lezaan Jordaan, Monique Stander and Duwayne Boer.

Lezaan Jordaan (17 in October) progressed to the final of the women’s shot put after improving her best by a massive 27cm, recording a new personal best of 15.27m.  Then she added another 10cm to the distance in the opening round and finished ninth in the final.  She broke the South African youth record however she cannot be crowned the record holder yet because the record still needs ratification. Jordaan competed in the youth category at the SA Championships where she won with a put of 17.52m..

Monique Stander broke the SA 800m youth record earlier this year in a race against Caster Semenya in Pretoria when she clocked 2:02.57.  The 17 year-old progressed to the semi-final of the women’s 800m in Barcelona where she crossed the line in 2:05.29 to finish fifth.

Duwayne Boer (17) competed in the men’s long jump at the World Youth Championships in 2011 where he finished 10th. He was selected for the World Junior Championships after a leap of 7.68m at the SA Junior, Youth and School Championships. This was a personal best by 48cm.  Boer unfortunately did not progress to the final of the World Junior Championships after a best jump of 7.22m in the qualifying rounds.

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