URBAN legend has it that the "Bullet from Bethal”, better known as Llewellyn Herbert, gained weight during his debut Olympic Games in 1996 from all the free McDonald’s burgers, fries and Coke that were in abundance at the athletes’ village in Atlanta.
The former 400m hurdler, an ex-SA record-holder and world junior champion, who admitted to having been awestruck by all the freebies at the Games in Atlanta, warned the SA Olympic team heading to the London Games not to fall into the same trap.
"My mistake was to just go for everything on offer,” Herbert said. "My advice to the team will be not to grab everything that’s for free – no free Coke or food.
"They must go there for the experience and do their best, and not just go there to fill the field. They are the best in SA, so they have what it takes to do well.”
At the Atlanta Games, Herbert finished no better than seventh in the heats, but later that year he became the world’s fastest junior at the age of 19, with a time of 48.76sec at the World Junior Champs in Sydney.
After learning his lesson from 1996, the "Bullet from Bethal” went to the Sydney Olympics a better prepared athlete and went on to be one of five SA medal-winners at the 2000 Games with a bronze medal.
"Just thinking and talking about the 2000 Sydney Games gives me goosebumps all over again. The Olympics are definitely one of the major events in anyone’s career. It was an amazing feeling and experience winning an Olympic medal,” reminisced Herbert.
The former Olympian believes there are some talented track athletes in SA, but that the targeted medal-count of 12 could be just a dream. Putting his head on the block, Herbert said the only realistic SA medal hope was javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen.
"Our sprinters are doing well, but unfortunately our best sprinter – Simon [Magakwe] – is not going to the Olympics. I think our best shot at a medal in London will be from Sunette [Viljoen],” he said.