South African javelin ace Sunette Viljoen has overcome her fair share of challenges during a rollercoaster career. The 2011 world bronze medallist digs out three nuggets of wisdom that have led to her success.

1. Put up with the sacrifices

“In my quest to be the best I have had to sacrifice many things, which isn't always easy. It is not a normal existence to train six or seven days a week in an effort to be a champion. As an athlete we put in a lot not only physically, but psychologically and emotionally to be the best. As a young athlete, I perhaps didn't understand that.

“The sport is not as glamorous as many people would imagine. To be travelling to meets without a coach and spending big chunks of time without my loved ones around me is hard.

“Yet it is important to come to terms with that and realise that the sacrifices are part of the job.”

Sunette Viljoen ()

Viljoen throwing at the 2011 Daegu World Championships, where she won bronze with a best distance of 68.38m

2. Learn to adapt

“As an athlete there are many things that will be thrown at you which you need to train your mind to cope with. For example, as a professional athlete you will be travelling to meets all over the world in different time zones. You might find that difficult to overcome, or the weather conditions might not be what you are used to.

“I remember my very first international meet I had to drive many miles in Spain to get to the meeting. It was not easy. That first meeting I went to I shared a room with an athlete who didn't speak the same language as me.

“If you can change your mindset to these changing circumstances you will earn more success in your career.”

Sunette Viljoen ()

In Glasgow last August Viljoen won her third consecutive Commonwealth Games medal. The 31-year-old has also won FOUR African Championships.

3. Respect your opposition

“If you respect your opponents they will learn to respect you.

“At the beginning of my career, when I was throwing 59m and 61m, I desperately wanted to win and I found it difficult to say congratulations to my rivals. But I was keen to show good sportsmanship and over time I learned how to carry myself and whether I won or lost I would shake the hand of my opponents.

“A prime example is at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I was the two-times defending champion and I wanted to win with my whole heart. But I faced Kim Mickle, who won the gold that day and thoroughly deserved her victory. I won the silver medal but it was important I took my turn to offer my congratulations to Kim.”