It’s women’s month and our August Icon is Sunette Viljoenu, a female sports athlete and a great female achiever in the sports world.
Sunette Stella Viljoen (born 6 October 1983 in Johannesburg) is a South African javelin thrower, who has won gold at the Commonwealth Games and African Championships. She also made one Women’s Test cricket and 17 Women’s One Day International appearances for South Africa between 2000 and 2002.
She won gold at the 2009 Summer Universiade in Belgrade, throwing 62.52 metres. At the qualifying round she set a new African record 65.46 metres, eclipsing her compatriot Justine Robbeson’s record 63.49m achieved in Potchefstroom in February 2008. Viljoen’s throw was over three meters further than her previous PB of 62.24 m achieved also at the February 2008 meeting in Potchefstroom. On 14 June 2010 she broke her own record with 66.38 m at the Josef Odložil Memorial in Prague.
She went on to win bronze at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea on 2 September 2011. With a throw of 68.38m, she also set a new African Record.
Again on 9 June 2012 she improved her own African record to 69.35m at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York City. Having failed to reach the final at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, she finished fourth at the 2012 Summer Olympics, only 0.38 cm off the bronze medal winning mark.
Viljoen, who has various degrees (Bachelor of Commerce in Sport Management and Recreation; Bachelor of Education Honours, Higher Education Schools diploma, and more to come) behind her name, grew up in a teaching and sporting environment. Her parents, both teachers and sports lovers (dad Deon was a provincial rugby wing) have supported her all along during an exciting sporting career that started in 1998, at the age of 14, when she was selected to play cricket for South Africa’s national team. She excelled as a batsman and appeared in Test and one-day internationals.
At that stage she had to make a choice between cricket and athletics. It was a difficult decision but javelin throwing got the nod and, with Liebenberg as coach – he guided Marius Corbett to a world title in 1997 – and Jan Zelezny as role-model, she is convinced she has done the right thing.
As a youngster she preferred to run the 400 metres but, because of a strong arm and impressing when throwing a cricket ball, her headmaster told a teacher, Marina Hamilton, that if she could help her to throw 35 metres with a javelin she could start coaching her. Viljoen agreed reluctantly because she had previously failed to control the spear. However, the result a few days later was 36.92 and since then it has never been the same again.
She has a son of 4 (Henré), of whom she is very proud. He resembles her, plays the most important role in her life, and has given her only pleasure. She has been engaged to Conrad Seymore since Christmas 2008 but they have no definite wedding plans as yet. She also has a brother (30) and a younger sister of 21.
Viljoen loves to relax and watch movies but, most of all, she enjoys socialising with family and friends around a fire and a typical South African “braai” (barbeque). She impresses with all the facts and stats of her own career which she has on the tips of her fingers.
2003: q World Championships (Paris)
2003: 3rd All Africa Games (Abuja)
2003: 1st Afro-Asian Games (Hyderabad)
2004 1st African Championships (Brazzaville)
2004 q Olympic Games (Athens)
2005 12th World Student Games (Izmir)
2006 1st Commonwealth Games (Melbourne)
2006 2nd African Championships (Bambous)
2007 3rd All Africa Games (Algiers)
2007 5th World Student Games (Bangkok)
2008 1st African Championships (Addis Ababa)
2008 q Olympic Games (Beijing)
2009 1st World Student Games (Belgrade)