Running for Office

A Shot of Inspiration

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At primary
school, Simone du Toit’s teachers chose her to try out at shot put due to her
being a “big girl.” She stepped up and the shot landed on the furthest end of
the throwing arc. At the age of 13, she picked up a world record for her age
category, then in high school, Simone tried her hand at discus and found a similar
ability, and soon she was travelling the world to compete. That saw her bring
home a gold medal and world title in the shot and a silver medal in the discus
from the 2005 World Youth Champs in Marrakech. She also claimed the SA Youth
(under-18) records for both disciplines, as well as the SA Junior (under-20) record
for the discus and second on the list for shot put.

 

AMERICAN DREAM

Simone says
it has been her dream to compete in the Olympics since primary school, but in 2008
her Beijing dreams
were dashed after falling ill due. “I was angry because I had been training, so
I decided I needed a change, and I needed to go to America and compete there,”
explains Simone.

 

She packed
her bags and that August, Simone enrolled at Southern Methodist University
(SMU) in Texas
to study marketing and advertising. She joined the track and field team and
began competing on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
circuit, attending several athletic meets a week across the USA. The facilities and high
standard of competition suited Simone. “The NCAA gave me a stepping stone to
compete on the world circuit. The best junior athletes from all over the world come,
and they create the environment for you to accelerate.”

 

NEW WAY OF LIFE

It was the move to the States
that necessitated a new diet and training programme. From being 102kg on
arrival at SMU, Simone learnt a new way of living. “As an athlete you have to eat,
drink and sleep differently,” she says, and she began training seven hours a
day. This saw her lose 50kg and improve her technique markedly. “I started to
learn the shot put spin and rotational technique. It took two years to learn
properly, but it helped my game,” says Simone.

 

She has gone on to record the furthest
or second-furthest throws in NCAA competition for the past few years, and she
qualified for the 2011 IAAF World
Championships in Daegu, South Korea. “The
lifestyle changes were hard, but when you see your own results, it is a
bottomless pit of inspiration,” explains Simone.

 

RUNNING THERAPY

Simone has used running in her
training regime, particularly sprint shuttles for the explosive power surges
she needs when competing, She also runs longer distances everyday to clear her
head. “Running has been the best therapy and I run everyday as soon as I wake
up. You feel better and nothing beats that endorphin rush.”

 

Nutrition-wise, Simone controls
her portions. “I see myself as a red Ferrari and I fill myself up with petrol
to push as far as I can go. I used to feel like a bus – slow and passive – but
now I’m not going to put bad petrol into me. The body is too precious,” she
says.

 

GIVING BACK

Simone came back to South Africa at the end of 2011 and is now
working at the University
of Johannesburg as a sports
marketer. She also works as a personal trainer, writes diets and exercise
programmes, and organises shot put clinics at schools. She won’t be competing
in this year’s Olympics due to a knee injury, but says she is not as devastated
as she was in 2008. Now, she realises that one creates your own path for
success. “All you have to do is find something that makes you smile – that is
how you see your own true potential.”

 

She says she noticed how her complete
physical change affected people around her. “I knew from an athletics
perspective I could help people find their own potential. Now I want to help at
least one person a day. Ultimately, giving back is what you need to do in life.”

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