Series24 Jul 2019

Advice to my younger self: Sunette Viljoen


South African javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen (© Getty Images)

South African javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen has enjoyed a 16-year international career full of highs and lows. Here the Olympic silver medallist tries to make sense of her journey to pass on some important life lessons to childhood self.


Dear Sunette,

Your will to never give up and to always be the best has been a part of you since I can remember.

At the age of six, you stopped in the middle of a fun run and told your brother (who cheered you on) to stop because you wanted to finish on your own. You have always had that will to do it on your terms and you don’t need any encouragement from anyone else.

Sunette, try to keep that inner drive to be the best because you will be fortunate to be blessed with a successful athletics career and that flame to be the best must always keep burning.

Ever since your first race – a 5km fun run in Klerksdorp – where you had your ‘speed wobble’ and fell down, you have always possessed the desire to succeed. You walked to the medal table, stood there and whispered softly... ‘I also want to win a medal’. Well, today you are the Olympic silver medallist and you more than made up for the one that got away at the age of seven.

You will also have to learn that disappointments and defeats are going to be part of your sporting journey. You will feel the utter disappointment of losing out on Olympic or World Championships medals, but, Sunette, I don't know anyone else who has the drive, fire and passion to stand up after a fall, who can conquer the tears and heartbreak you suffered during various points in your career.

You have the heart and fighting spirit to keep going, no matter what life throws at you. You will find that you will throw a spear for life.

From a very young age you practised your signature... maybe you knew in that young heart of yours that signature will become famous one day. I am so happy you practised it because who have to sign a lot of things today. You see, Sunette, you always had that dream in your heart that one day you will be great.

You had that belief and dream since you were small.

You will also have to learn that life can be hard, life can be tough, it is not always easy out there, but God made you in a very special way and he chose you to be his soldier on and off the field.

My 'bigger' advice is: never let go of that fire, drive, fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude because in life champions never give up and never surrender until they get what they want. Keep going no matter how hard the climb. Remember: the view from the top is always the best.

Take care, Sunette; you will become one of the greatest throwers of all time.



Steve Landells for the IAAF