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Posted: January 29, 2021:  

(RRW) Athletics: Triple South African Champion Marius Van Heerden Has Died From COVID-19

From David Monti, @d9monti
© 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved.

(29-Jan) -- The COVID-19 pandemic claimed one of the best middle distance runners ever produced in South Africa, Marius van Heerden, in Cape Town last Thursday (January 21). Van Heerden, a former South African senior record holder and junior champion in the 800 meters, as well as national senior champion over 1500m, was just 46 years-old.

PHOTO: Marius Van Heerden in 2017 (family photo via Facebook)

Van Heerden represented South Africa at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 1997 World Championships in Athens. He first received national colours for a tour to India in 1993.

Van Heerden came onto the national scene in 1991 when he won the national U17 800m title in Germiston in 1:51.82. A year later in Cape Town's Green Point Stadium he beat Hezekiel Sepeng (who is two months older) into second place to take the U19 gold medal in 1:49.17. A month earlier in Bellville he had run his best time of 1:48.63.

In September 1992 he finished sixth at the World Junior Championships in Seoul in 1:48.71.

The next year, 1993, he improved to 1:46.38 in Pretoria behind Johan Landsman, and also ran 1:46.55, 1:46.59, 1:46.87 and 1:46.89. The fastest time placed him fourth on the world junior list, with the 11th best time (Sepeng had the three quickest). He could not better this in 1994 and 1995, but in the Olympic year he reached the pinnacle of his career when he set a new South African record of 1:44.57 in Cape Town on April 12 -- improving the national mark that had stood for 25 years behind the names of Dicky Broberg and March Fiasconaro. Although this performance was surpassed four times later in the year by Sepeng, who eventually won the silver medal in Atlanta, Van Heerden's time placed him 23rd on the world list for the year. He also ran the fastest South African time for 1000m, a personal best of 2:17.64, as well as 1:45.52 and 1:45.99.

At the Olympic Games Van Heerden was eliminated in the first round when he finished third in his heat in 1:47.46. Three weeks before, he had been eighth in the Bislett Games in 1:46.31, then his fourth fastest time.

Earlier in the year he had run the best mile of his career when he finished third behind Johan Botha and Sepeng in 3:57.49 -- also the third fastest SA time for 1996.

He never won the SA senior title over two laps, but the year 1997 started off well for him when he took the 1500m title in 3:42.11 -- interestingly enough, at altitude in Potchefstroom. (He twice won the silver medal over 800m, in 1993 and 1998, and in 1995 the bronze; he was also third in the 1500m in 1996. As a junior, apart from his two 800m titles, he also won the silver medal over 800m in 1993 and over 1500m in 1991.)

A month later he ran his best 800 time of the year when he clocked 1:45.63 in Cape Town. At the World Championships he qualified for the quarterfinal with a third place in his heat in 1:47.56, but then finished only sixth in the next round and was eliminated.

He recorded the two fastest SA times for 1000m in 1997, with a best of 2:18.25.

In 1998 his best 800 was 1:46.83 (for 8th on the SA list) and in 2000 1:46.64 (also 8th). He finished his career with eleven performances under 1:47.00 and at the time of his death he was still seventh on the SA all-time list.

Van Heerden twice represented South Africa in international test matches and won the 800 on both occasions: against Italy in 1996 (1:49.4) and against Russia in 1998 (1:46.83).

Van Heerden's annual progression in the 800 and 1500: 1990 - 1:52.9h; 1991 - 1:50.0h; 1992 - 1:48.63; 1993 - 1:46.38; 1994 - 1:46.92; 1995 - 1:47.02; 1996 - 1:44.57 PB/3:40.51 PB; 1997 - 1:45.63/3:41.43; 1998 - 1:46.83/3:43.8h; 1999 - 1:50.36/3:42.95; 2000 - 1:46.64; 2001 - 1:49.73. His other PBs: 600 - 1:18.94/00; 1000 - 2:17.64/96; mile - 3:57.49/96.

Van Heerden was born on September 8, 1974. He leaves his wife, Petra, and two sons, Tiann and Hugo.

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