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Aynslee Van Graan eye a double in SA Cross Country Championships - Sports Leo

University of Pretoria athlete Aynslee van Graan is aiming to repeat a unique double when she competes at the South African Cross Country Championships in Centurion on Saturday.

Three weeks ago, during the Gauteng North Cross Country Championships, she managed to win the 4km as well as the 10km races.

Van Graan, though, admits it might not be as easy to win on Saturday as she is competing against seasoned cross country runners, such as Glenrose Xaba, the current SA women’s cross country champion, Cornelia Joubert and Zintle Xiniwe.

The Tuks athlete reckons a 10km cross country race is all about ignoring the pain.

“My first and foremost challenge is going to be just to try and stick with the more experienced runners,” said Van Graan.

“If I manage to do so, I might surprise myself. The one thing I need to work on is self-confidence. I tend to allow myself to be intimidated when I compete against athletes who I consider better.”

Earlier this year, Van Graan represented SA at the Cross Country World Championships in Denmark. She said the event was a reality check.

“It was, without doubt, the toughest race I ever ran. We had to race through sand as well as mud pits. It felt like I was continuously facing either uphill or downhill. The steepest climb turned out to be running to the top of a museum’s roof.

“After the first lap, I was not sure whether I would be able to finish. I am glad that I was able to finish. It was a mental victory for me.

“Afterwards, when looking at the results, I was at first disappointed, but then I realised my name appeared among those of some seasoned international campaigners.”

In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo

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