Q&A with… Wenda Nel


Country: South Africa

Profession: Athlete – 400m Hurdles

Career highlights:

  • Commonwealth Games Bronze medallists
  • 3x African Championships Gold medallist
  • Athletics Association board member representing Africa

How much in US dollars do you estimate you spend to prepare for the Olympics?

On average, my costs have been around $20 000 per year, therefore in a 4-year Olympic cycle it can add up to around $80 000 –  $100 000  to prepare for the Olympics.

What kind of support should athletes receive when preparing for the Olympics?

Support varies for every athlete as we all have different needs. But for me, it is important to have a great team around me, which includes my family, coach, manager, medical staff (Dr, Physio, Dietitian, Psychologist, Sports massage therapist), sponsors and friends. All have a very specific role and together such a support structure can aid an athlete achieving their goals.

Of course, financial support is also essential, and support from Federations can help athletes in a huge way.

What was the best financial advice you received as a professional athlete?

Have a good financial planner and invest your income instead of spending it all at once.

What is the biggest misconception about Track and Field athletes?

Many people don’t see T&F as a job and assume that it is always just fun. Others think you are always on a strict diet, which is not true.

What are the two things you wish you had known before you became a professional athlete?

As a young athlete with dreams and aspirations, I did believe it will be many hours of hard work to become a professional athlete and compete amongst the world’s best. However, looking back, I believe I might have benefitted from having more guidance in how to deal mentally and emotionally with injuries/lack of performance.

Being a professional athlete also requires being exposed to the public and media. Really knowing and understanding this early in one’s career, might help you deal with disappointments better and knowing how to handle criticism as there will be a lot of pressure.

What is the difference between an amateur and professional athlete, besides performance?

Usually a professional athlete will do this as their full-time job  and earn an income.

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