Just under two years ago John Claude Van Biljon boarded a plane from his native South Africa bound for Ottawa to compete in the IAAF Capital Cup, one of nine stops that year on the World Combined Events Challenge Series. Fast forward to this past weekend in Toronto and the 24 year old Van Biljon won bronze in the decathlon at the Canadian Championships.
Immediately upon arrival in Ottawa, Van Biljon became enamoured with the city. Before he even had a chance to fly home to South Africa, he was already looking for a way to extend his stay in Canada. Over the past twenty four months, he has worked tirelessly both on and off the track, honing his practice in the decathlon with Coach James Holder as well as ensuring he would be able to stay and train in his new found home.
Last week, just before departing for Toronto, Van Biljon’s efforts off the track were rewarded when he received his permanent resident status. This was one piece of the puzzle towards reaching his first Canadian Championship medal. The rest lay in the ten events spread over two days at Varsity Stadium.
It was solid results in more rewarding events like the long jump (6.57m), high jump (1.89m), and pole vault (4.65m) that helped propel the South African to the medal stand. When he crossed the line of the concluding event, the 1500m, Van Biljon had amassed 6640 points – just 15 ahead of London Western’s Austin McLeod – to take bronze.
Oddly enough, Sunday marked the second time Van Biljon has finished third at the Championships. Last year in Ottawa, he set a new lifetime best of 6788 points to place third, but had to defer the medal to training partner Telvin Tavernier as he was not yet a permanent resident.
Also finishing among the top five was Kevin Nault. The University of Ottawa graduate posted a lifetime best of 6386 points to finish fifth overall. It was Nault’s highest finish ever at nationals.
On the women’s side, combined events rookie Emily Sprague also placed fifth in her first Canadian Championship. The soon to be fourth year student at the University of Ottawa scored a lifetime best 4155 points over the two day heptathlon highlighted by solid results in the 100m hurdles (15.51s) and 200m (26.55s).