Silas Kiplagat of Kenya (2nd L) wins his men's 1,500 metres heat next to Leonel Manzano of the U.S. (L), Ilham Tanui Ozbilen of Turkey (2nd R) and Johan Cronje of South Africa (R) during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow August 14, 2013. Picture: REUTERS
Silas Kiplagat of Kenya (2nd L) wins his men's 1,500 metres heat next to Leonel Manzano of the U.S. (L), Ilham Tanui Ozbilen of Turkey (2nd R) and Johan Cronje of South Africa (R) during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow August 14, 2013. Picture: REUTERS

MANY South African middle-distance athletes are failing to reach their potential because they are too lazy, said Johan Cronje, the country’s high-riding 1,500m star.

He has just completed a stellar season in which he broke the 20-year-old national record, then won the 1,500m world championship bronze, and this past weekend improved his South Africa mark to 3min 31.93sec.

‘‘Talent-wise I rate us very highly, especially in the 800m and even 1,500m," Cronje said from his Bloemfontein base on Wednesday. ‘‘But the thing I picked up with South African athletes, and maybe it’s the fault of the coaches too, is ... an athlete is running the 800m (when) he should be training for the 1,500m.

‘‘And the 1,500m athletes should be training for the 5,000m, and the 400m athletes should be training for the 800m.

‘‘It’s easy for the 800m athlete to go and run 400m because he has speed, but he’s too lazy to go and train and do the hard work to be a real decent 800m athlete.

‘‘His body can take the 400m training so much easier. Same with a lot of guys running the 1,500m — it’s easy for them to do the 1,500m because their bodies should be doing the 5,000m.

‘‘I feel that is a huge mishap in South African athletics," said Cronje, who believes that little separates South Africa’s runners and their illustrious rivals from East Africa. ‘‘We have this perception that we are not as good as the Kenyans or the Ethiopians. But it’s been proven over and over again by the Americans and other nations that they are beatable."

He said he had shared hotel rooms with Kenyans during his travels, and asked them about their training. ‘‘We’re not training very differently."

He attributed his own success in 2013 to two factors — a different attitude and eating fewer desserts.