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Rocco trains for comeback

The Covid-19 pandemic has put a spanner in the works for sport as a whole, but for Rocco van Rooyen it’s come as a blessing in disguise.

The 27-year-old javelin thrower, who lives in Durbanville, is preparing for a crack at his second Olympic Games in Tokyo, which has been postponed to July 2021.

“Life has been very interesting, good and not so good. Good to have more free time to reflect on life and make the necessary changes and plans. Bad, that it was almost impossible to train hard enough and sufficient enough,” he says.

Despite the challenging circumstances posed by the lockdown, Van Rooyen continued performing his duties as a co-pastor at Harmonie Gemeente as well as being a brand ambassador for a mental health hospital, albeit in an online environment.

He says, before lockdown, he was well on his way back to peak performance after being sidelined by injury, which he admits have played a major role in his career. He says that rushing back to action too soon was not always the wisest choice.

“Rather be agile, have a good rhythm and be mostly healthy than to train crazy hard and heavy or throw too much and be in constant pain. A healthy body brings about a healthy, strong mindset. Now I have to make the most with what I have - three operations later,” he says.

He says he has learnt his lesson, and as a result, now incorporates a more holistic approach to training and preparation.

“I try to cover head to toes and try to not neglect any muscles in a week. I always do explosive training, and I keep running, so that I can always remain light on my feet and fast despite weighing 100kg. I work with more cables and medicine balls that cover the smaller muscles and I don’t just focus on the big ones. I must say, this cold winter is making it quite difficult to train outside,” he laments, but adds he is grateful to be able to conduct most of his training in his new home gym, which was organised by one of his sponsors.

With the revised regulations on level 3 lockdown, athletes are now able to train at facilities, with athletics being a non-contact sport. This means Van Rooyen can get back to throwing the javelin outdoors. While he still finds himself mostly indoors, Van Rooyen says a lot of time has been devoted to strengthening his mental game, while the extra time has also helped him think about pursuing a growing passion of his, after clocking up the minutes on local screens last year.

“Workwise, I have spent so much time in front of the camera for the church as well as the mental health recordings that go out to schools. I would like to possibly do a bit of acting in the future or advertisements if such opportunities should ever come – a possible hobby developing. Being on Survivor might have started it all,” he jokes.

But before he can hone his acting skills, Van Rooyen’s focus is firmly set on not only returning to competitive action but to once again stake his claim at the upper echelons of the sport.

“In the meantime, I will do everything I can to get to the top. I might still compete in Finland around August depending on the lockdown rules. I think some people have forgotten me in the javelin circles, and I like that! I’m always behind the scenes, busy training my heart out doing what I can to stand up again and ‘rise from the dead’ like Lazarus. Watch this space!”

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