By Sinenhlanhla Ngwenya
Feature image obtained from Gauteng Athletics Twitter account
In a tournament not short of sporty grit and surprises, Werner Visser, a discus thrower from Centurion and an Honours Computer Science student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), won a gold medal in this year’s African Senior Athletics Championship held in the small town of Port-Louis in Mauritius.
He won a gold medal at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Cali and when he reached senior level, he banked his first medal, a silver, at the 2018 African Championships in Asaba. Ironically, discus was not the top choice, evident in his known speciality in other throwing events. Seemingly a jack of all trades, he has achieved a 65.30m throw in shot put.
“I didn’t really choose [the] discus; it sort of chose me. I did a lot of sports in high-school and when I was supposed to choose which I want to pursue, discus was the only one that didn’t give me constant injuries and as it turns out, I enjoy discus a lot,” he says.
Clad in the gold and green, Visser and his team in total bagged 36 podium places, 9 golds, 13 silvers and 14 bronze medals. Visser cruised through with his last throw as a gold medalist at that point with his fourth-round effort of 60.42m.
“Mostly what goes through my mind is just not to mess up the throw and trying to stay as calm as possible and trust my training because I know what I should do because I have practised it and I always want to do my best,” he says.
Although it was a successful win, Visser expressed the challenges that lead to the win, one being a major injury on his lower back. “It was hard to stay motivated in the beginning of the season as I had just come back from a big injury and I was training really hard and did not see any results but luckily, everything came together at the African Champs. After the win, the training got a lot easier and more enjoyable,” explains Visser.
The injury happened last year in April. Visser explains that it was due to too much strain and ‘over-work’. “I got injured because of over-training and doing the wrong things at the wrong time,” he says.
With increased hours in the gym, indeed too much strain was placed on his lower back, leading to a disc protrusion on his spine. “The injury was really bad,” he remembers. It was clear that the mind of the 24-year-old had been made up, setting it on an even bigger goal. And instead of a quick recovery.
Visser explains that the best for him was actually steady progress in recovery and support from family that mattered to him most. “I wanted to go slowly. I didn’t want anything to go wrong,” he notes.
Back on track
With the first month of recovery in bed, three months of rehab and one more month of light training, the curve steadily straightened up. “I was just really happy to be over 60m again as it was the first time since my injury and I finally won my biggest competitor from SA,” says Visser.
He gives credit to UJ Sport for helping him in finding equilibrium between the commitments of international sports and academics. “Balancing my sport and academics is really tough. I have to do a lot of time management and stick to a schedule. The services that the UJ unit of sport psychology offers to assist student athletes also provides guidance and support,” he explains.
He adds: “My advice would be just to never give up. I see a lot of good young athletes that could have done great but just gave up too soon.”
For Visser, it is just the beginning of his peak. “I hope one day to go fully professional and to win a medal at the Olympics,” he says. “At the moment I am still amature, but hope to go professional soon. It takes a lot of effort to do athletics especially in one of the throwing events as you only start to peak at a later stage in your career.”