University Sports South Africa
Follow @unisportsa on Twitter Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Facebook

University Sports South Africa
AerobicsAquaticsArcheryAthleticsBadmintonBasketballBodybuildingBoxingCanoeingCheerleadingChessCricketCross CountryCyclingDance SportDartsDisability SportE-SportsFencingFootballGolfGymnasticsHandballHockeyJudoKarateNetballOrienteeringRowingRugbySnow and Ice SportSoftballSports ClimbingSquashSupa-PoolSurfingTable TennisTaekwondoTennisTriathlonUnderwater SportsVolleyballYachting


Paris 2024 Next Stop for Chengdu Golden Girl

An athlete’s thirst for glory is seemingly never quenched, and South Africa’s Marlie Viljoen is no different. Fresh off of winning gold on the track in the 400m event at this year’s Chengdu FISU World University Games, the talented star already has her sights on her next objective, representing her country on the biggest stage of them all at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

A relatively late-bloomer, Marlie only took athletics seriously in high school, where her coach saw her potential and moved her from the 3000m event to the shorter 400m and 800m distances. Just two years later, Marlie won her first national title over the one-lap race, which has since become her preferred event.

Opting to combine her athletic prowess with academics, Marlie enrolled at the University of Pretoria, where she is currently completing her master’s degree in marketing management. She had her eyes set on the FISU Games for some time, only for the world to be hit by the global pandemic.

"Ever since 2021 my goal was to be able to qualify for and compete at the FISU Games," she tells "It was quite discouraging when the Games were postponed until 2023, but when I look back now, the timing could not have been more perfect. I feel that this year was definitely a standout year and the best season I have had in my life. At the beginning of the year my goal was only to be able to compete, but as the season progressed, I knew there could be something special waiting for me in China."

That "something special" turned into gold just two days after her 23rd birthday in Chengdu, as she lined up for the 400m women’s final.

"I felt quite confident going into the final," Marlie reflects. "I knew that if I just run my own race and focus on myself, I could win. That is why I was quite happy when I got lane 6 in the final so that I did not focus on everyone else in the lanes inside me."

Her impressive time of 52.38 seconds saw her take the title, as well as earn South Africa its first gold medal of the FISU Games.

"Winning the first gold medal for Team South Africa was super special and a great honour," she says. "To see the team’s faces and how proud they were was great to witness."

Away from the track, Marlie was thoroughly impressed by the organisation of the event, and truly enjoyed her experience in China.

"The World [University] Games is by far the best organised and most fun event I have ever been a part of," she said. "The Athletes Village was perfect for learning about China and meeting people from different countries. The venues and facilities were also world class. The whole experience in Chengdu, from the athletics to the culture, was just next level and a memory that I will cherish forever."

The podium at the Shuangliu Sports Centre Stadium had barely been packed away before Marlie made her way to Budapest. There she competed in the 400m for the senior South African team at this year’s World Athletics Championships in Hungary, capping off a busy northern hemisphere summer for the sprinter. For the rest of the year, and leading into the next, Marlie has more academic and sporting objectives to achieve.

"I will be completing my master’s in marketing this year and will then look towards other courses linked to my studying field to improve my academic record, while still pursuing athletics," she says. "My athletic goals are definitely to run faster next year over the 400m and qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Posted by Fabio De Dominicis on 13 Oct, 2023.
Source: FISU
University Sports South Africa
Follow @unisportsa on Twitter Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Facebook
Contact Us  |  Search  |  Terms & Conditions  |  Registration   
Design Copyright © January 2017