Prudence and Akani light up the athletics weekend with world leads

By Karien Jonckheere

Both Prudence Sekgodiso and Akani Simbine produced world-leading performances over the weekend, laying down important markers in the build-up to the Paris Olympics.

Competing in her first international race of the season, Sekgodiso ran a spectacularly timed 800m at the Diamond League meet in Marrakech on Sunday night to finish in a new personal best time of 1:57.26 which was also the fastest time in the world this year. The previous best of 1:57.56 had been set by Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi just a day earlier.

“I didn’t expect to run so fast,” admitted the 22-year-old afterwards. “Winning was in my mind but not with such a fast time. It’s crazy fast. I am so proud of myself tonight.

“Achieving a world lead and a personal best is just amazing. But I cannot say that this performance will change something for me in terms of goals and expectations. For the Paris Olympics, I will try to reach the final. I want to be in the big eight.”

Sekgodiso confirmed her next race will be in Nancy, France on 25 May before heading to the Diamond League meet in Stockholm on 2 June.

Meanwhile, over in the USA, Simbine stormed to victory in the 100m at the Adidas Atlanta City Games in a sizzlingly quick 9.90 seconds. That saw him getting the better of continental rival Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya, who was second in 10.00. Simbine’s time not only makes him the quickest in the world so far this year but also means he has now completed a full decade of running sub-10 second times each year.

Asked if his performance puts him in the conversation regarding being the king of African sprinters, Simbine simply smiled and said: “I’ve always been part of the conversation, I never left.”

As for his ambitions this season, the 30-year-old added: “I need to get my position on the [Olympic] podium so that’s what we’re working towards and I’m focused towards that.

“South Africa is making a lot of noise in the sprints,” he added.

“There’s a lot of us, not just from South Africa but the southern region of Africa… the youth that’s coming out are really great and I’m excited to be part of the Games still and be racing against these young kids so ja, I’m looking forward to it and hoping to stay on top.”

Akani, Wayde and Tatjana head Team SA as first batch of Olympic athletes announced

By Karien Jonckheere

Akani Simbine, Tatjana Smith and Wayde van Niekerk were all among the 39 athletes who officially had their tickets to Paris confirmed for later this year when the first Olympic team announcement was made by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic and Paralympic Committee (SASCOC) in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Teams were announced across seven sporting codes, with two more official announcements to come in the next two months.

The athletics team is far from complete with the qualification period still open and those athletes booking their tickets via world rankings yet to be finally determined.

Among those at the team announcement on Wednesday was young 400m star Lythe Pillay, who has just returned from helping the South Africa 4x400m quartet to a silver medal at the recent World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas.

“It’s really exciting. It’s still a bit surreal,” he said of making the Olympic team. “I’m really process orientated. I’m always just fixated on training and doing what I have to do. I very seldom take time to sit back and really acknowledge what has just happened and what I’ve achieved… it’s given me more of a sense of motivation to progress and keep pushing.”

Also thrilled to have booked her trip to Paris was Cian Oldknow who is one of three women, along with Gerda Steyn and Irvette van Zyl, to have qualified in the marathon.

“Until it’s official, it’s always a bit like – ooh, are we actually going? So I think now it’s starting to sink in that I really made the team,” she said. “I’m very excited… I can’t wait for what’s coming. I’m so excited to be on the start line with all my role models.”

Meanwhile, heading the swimming team is Tokyo gold and silver medallist Tatjana Smith who will be looking to defend her 200m breaststroke title in the French capital.

 “It’s definitely nice to know it’s official,” she said after the announcement. “This is my second time going but it doesn’t make it any less exciting than the first time so I’m very excited.

“I’m feeling very motivated because you know you’re so close to the end – as in Paris, the thing that you’ve been working towards for so long. That definitely keeps you encouraged because you know there’s only about nine weeks left so that helps a lot.”

Others in the swimming team include the likes of SA’s most successful Olympian Chad le Clos, world championship medallist Pieter Coetzé and Commonwealth Games medallists Erin Gallagher and Kaylene Corbett.

The other sporting codes to have their teams announced were canoeing, climbing, gymnastics, surfing and wrestling.

Meanwhile, SASCOC announced the cash incentives that are up for grabs to South Africans who win medals in Paris. R400,000 will be awarded to gold medallists with R100,000 going to their coaches, R200 000 for silver medallists (with R50k for coaches) and R75 000 for bronze medals (R25k for coaches).

SA Olympic team so far:

AQUATICS

Men: Pieter Coetzé (100m, 200m backstroke), Chad le Clos (100m butterfly), Matthew Sates (100m, 200m butterfly and 200m IM)

Women: Aimee Canny (200m freestyle), Kaylene Corbett (200m breaststroke), Erin Gallagher (100m butterfly), Rebecca Meder (200m IM), Tatjana Smith (100m, 200m breaststroke), Julia Vincent (diving, 3m springboard)

ATHLETICS

Men: Luxolo Adams (200m), Stephen Mokoka (marathon), Zakhiti Nene (400m), Lythe Pillay (400m), Benjamin Richardson (200m), Akani Simbine (100m), Tshepo Tshite (1500m), Wayde van Niekerk (400m), Jovan van Vuuren (long jump), Adriaan Wildschutt (5000m, 10000m).

Women: Marione Fourie (100mH), Zeney Geldenhuys (400mH), Rogail Joseph (400mH), Cian Oldknow (marathon), Prudence Sekgodiso (800m), Gerda Steyn (marathon), Irvette van Zyl (marathon)

CANOEING

Men: Andrew Birkett (kayak sprint), Hamish Lovemore (kayak sprint)

Women: Tiffany Koch (kayak sprint), Esti Olivier (kayak sprint)

Management: Nkosi Mzolo (coach), Janet Simpkins (manager)

GYMNASTICS

Women: Caitlin Rooskrantz (artistic)

Management: Ilse Pelser (coach)

SPORT CLIMBING

Men: Joshua Bruyns (speed climbing), Mel Janse van Rensburg (lead & boulder)

Women: Aniya Holder (speed climbing), Lauren Mukheiber (lead & boulder)

Management: Dean Bruyns (manager), John-David Muller (official coach)

SURFING

Men: Matthew McGillivray, Jordy Smith

Women: Sarah Ann Baum

Management: Christopher Bond (coach), Rezar De Nicker (coach, manager)

WRESTLING

Men: Steyn de Lange (92kg), Marias Hattingh (training partner, 79kg)

Management: Jan Roets (coach)

 

SPAR Women’s 10/5km Challenge: Women’s Upliftment Organisation announced as SPAR Race Charity

By entering this year’s Durban SPAR Women’s 10/5km Challenge each participant will be supporting the Sinethemba Women’s Foundation.
 
Based in Matabetule near Inanda Dam, the Sinethemba Women’s Foundation is led by Snenhlanhla Mbatha. With a passion for social development, Mbatha strongly believes that health is wealth. The Foundation is a dynamic NPO, committed to uplifting and enriching women.
 
With the mantra, “When you uplift a woman, you uplift a community she inhabits, as women are regularly agents for change!’ The Sinethemba Women’s Foundation’s projects and programmes work towards the development of self-sustainable communities and are centred around four areas: gender-based violence; menstrual health; community outreach and skills development and training.
 
This aligns with SPAR’s strong national stance against Gender Based Violence, and the race’s theme of “Choose You”, a call to action to be kind and caring for oneself too, in all aspects of life.
 
“Our mission is to support women and the young people in our area to achieve their full potential,” enthuses Mbatha, who is a qualified Medical Scientist. “We encourage, enable and facilitate their active involvement in business, employment, learning and community life.”
 
The Sinethemba communities are served by a proactive team of women who volunteer their time in order to create sustainable and impactful programmes for other women. They also engage men and boys from the communities to lend their voices to the organisation, as “men and boys must be involved in conversations about gender equality, promoting positive masculinity and dismantling the patriarchal society they benefit from.”
 
R5 from every entry will be donated to the Sinethemba Women’s Foundation. To find out more, visit www.sinethembawomensfoundation.com.
 
To enter and be a part of this year’s SPAR Women’s 10/5km Challenge, visit www.sparwomensrace.co.za/dur/

SA rowers’ Olympic dream on the line in Switzerland

By Karien Jonckheere

Days, months and years of training come down to one final push to reach the Paris Olympic Games for the SA rowing duo of Paige Badenhorst and Kat Williams.

The pair head to Switzerland next week with one final chance to book their ticket to Paris later this year.

A fourth-place finish at the Memorial Paolo D’Aloja regatta in Piediluco, Italy at the end of March would have gone a long way to boosting confidence levels for the Pretoria-based team – as has a good stint of training in recent weeks.

“The training for Paige and I has been going really well,” explained Williams. “The boat has been moving really well and we keep making really good strides to improve our boat speed. We’re in a very good place and are just excited at the opportunity to race.”

The pressure will be on at the 2024 World Rowing Final Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne where only a top-two place will be good enough to make it to the Olympics, with 11 boats already having secured their spots at last year’s World Championships.

“⁠We are obviously very confident in our ability, I think we know what it takes now and we have built a lot of confidence since the World Championships last year. The belief in ourselves is so important, especially going into an event like this,” said Williams.

“⁠It would mean a great deal to us as the Olympics has been a dream for both of us since we started rowing. Going to the Olympics would be a dream come true and would be an opportunity to show the world what we can do.”

The pair are no strangers to success on the global stage with Williams having claimed a bronze medal at the 2021 Under 23 World Championships and Badenhorst part of the 2022 Cambridge crew that won the famed Boat Race in the UK. They’ve only been rowing together in the women’s scull since January last year, but the partnership was a good one from the start.

“We always say that we are very opposite in terms of being an extrovert and an introvert, but that has allowed us to complement each other very well,” explained Williams. “From the first time we rowed together, there was a chemistry, as our coach Tiago Loureiro pointed out to us, so we work together really well and have an undeniable trust and understanding of each other that just helps us to make the boat go fast.”

The belief is certainly there that it will be fast enough for one of those top-two spots once they get to Switzerland.

Meanwhile, also gunning for qualification at the 19-21 May even in Lucerne are the men’s lightweight four of Luc Daffarn, Jake Green, James Mitchell and Henry Torr.

From PhD to Paris: Mhlongo juggles medals, marriage & more in pursuit of Paralympic gold

Mpumelelo Mhlongo is a busy man. When he’s not working his day job as a structured finance consultant at Investec, he’s busy with his PhD in chemical engineering, or spending time with his new wife. Incredibly, in the hours in between, the 30-year-old is training to compete at his third Paralympic Games. By Karien Jonckheere

Come this weekend, however, Mhlongo will be heading to Sun City in the North West for the SA Sports Awards where he’s once again been nominated in the category of Sportsman of the Year with a Disability. He’s up against wheelchair tennis player Donald Ramphadi and golfer David Watts.

“We are extremely proud of our nomination for the SA Sports Awards. Being a nominee at the country’s biggest event that celebrates sporting excellence is always a welcomed treasure,” said Mhlongo of the accolade.

“We have been nominated before but never won it. South Africa is the land of sporting excellence so being nominated has been beyond our wildest imagination.”

Mhlongo, who was born with amniotic band syndrome which affected both his hands and feet, is the current world record holder in the T44 category in the 100m, 200m and the long jump and in 2023 he claimed 100m gold at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris.

“Winning a World Championship gold medal in the year I got married is definitely a lovely number three highlight in my life for that year, even though it was my greatest sporting achievement to date,” he admitted.

“We were blessed to have many things work in our favour and will cherish that day with all those who worked tirelessly to get me to the World Championships that year.”

Now the plan is to return to Paris to claim more gold, with the Paralympics taking place from 28 August to 8 September.

“The training and preparations for Paris have been filled with beautiful moments to reflect and a big reminder of how we often overlook our health, in pursuit of other goals or dreams,” he explained.

“We have had a few injuries and niggles that have set us back in our plan but probably had the most fun out of any other Paralympic preparation which has been the most unexpected and blessed outcome of the whole process.

“Our target is a Paralympic gold medal but we hope to do it in a way that unlocks the potential we never saw coming.”

But first there’s a trip to take to Sun City where the awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, 5 May.

Mhlongo is loathe to describe himself as a representative or role model for athletes with a disability, however.

“To be honest, I do not believe I represent sports people with a disability nor would I consider myself a role model,” he explained. “My approach has always been, us striving to be better versions of ourselves such that we can be a valuable addition in our community. How that is perceived, is a manifestation of how others then reflect their bias on us.”

 

Adidas announces second year of move for the planet – funding projects in areas impacted by extreme weather conditions around the world

  • For every ten minutes of movement logged by users on the adidas Running App, adidas is pledging to donate €1 – up to €1.5 million – between 10th and 22nd May.

  • Users can log time against over 100 sports including the likes of Handball, Zumba Fitness, Padel and many more.

  • Partnerships with Common Goal and the UN Climate Change Sports for Climate Action to support projects that offer sustainability education and help to make sports facilities more resilient against extreme weather

South Africa, May 2, 2024 – Today, adidas announces the return of Move For The Planet – its global initiative harnessing collective movement to create collective impact. adidas is calling on all athletes at every level across the world to track their physical activity across a variety of sports to raise money for projects in areas impacted by heat waves, flooding, and other extreme weather conditions.

Extreme weather conditions are having an increasing impact on the places people play and practice sport. From the neighbourhood pitches to global sports venues. Statistics reveal that by 2050, almost one-fourth of the English football league team’s stadiums (23 out of 92) are projected to be partially or completely flooded every year. Further research by the UN states that approximately half of former Winter Olympic host cities will likely be unable to host future games in the same timeframe.

In 2023, over a million people took part in the first year of Move For The Planet, with the leading activities for minutes recorded including running (63.1%), walking (17.9%) and cycling (9.2%). 

This year adidas has expanded the initiative to include over 100 sports including Football, Kayaking, Jump Rope, Powerlifting and many more.

In 2024, for every ten minutes of movement logged on the adidas Running App between 10th – 22nd May, adidas will donate €1 – up to a total of €1.5 million. These funds will be used to help create real world change, through education on sustainability and the enhancement of facilities to make them more resilient against extreme weather conditions.

Ashley Czarnowski, Senior Director, Global Purpose Marketing at adidas said: “We’re excited to build on the success of the first year of Move for The Planet, which brought together a community of over one million people across the world.

This year people can record movement in over 100 sports and we are expanding the impact of the programme to include a new set of projects and initiatives. Whether it’s taking part at the grassroots or competing at the highest level, we all have a deep connection to the places we play. Together we can unite as a global sporting community to help some of those places, by making sports facilities more resilient to extreme weather conditions and providing education on sustainability.”

Common Goal is a global impact movement that aims to shift society towards a more sustainable and equitable future through sport – who unite Community organisations, athletes, clubs, brands and other stakeholders to collaborate towards the wellbeing of our people and planet.

Olivia Baston-Pitt, Senior Impact Sponsorship Manager at Common Goal said: “We’re thrilled that the Move For The Planet initiative is back for a second year. The success of last year meant we were able to increase the accessibility of sport for individuals who haven’t always had that privilege.

Take the Cancha Violeta sports space in San Pedro Xalostoc, Mexico, where we were able to support the installation of a brand-new multi-sport pitch and a drainage programme that collects water for the neighbouring grass pitch and garden.

Alongside Common Goal, adidas will also be supporting UN Climate Change – Sports for Climate Action to develop a series of training modules for sports and NGOs operating in the nexus of sport and development. The UN Climate Change is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. The partnership is centered on using sport to educate and engage communities on climate-related topics and sustainable practices.

The funds created by Move For The Planet will go towards creating publicly accessible training materials as well as the hosting of training sessions with networks of NGOs and other organisations to enable them to transform communities in the service of future for sport on a thriving planet.

For more information on how to join in or for more on the initiative itself, please visit https://www.adidas.co.za/sustainability.

No hurdle too high for Rogail Joseph who is packing for Paris

By Karien Jonckheere

Rogail Joseph added her name to the list of automatic qualifiers for the Paris Olympics at the SA Athletics Championships in Pietermaritzburg last week.

But it wasn’t until she was called in for a dope test that she realised she had achieved the qualifying mark.

The 24-year-old finished second in the 400m hurdles behind Zeney Geldenhuys in a time of 54.84 which meant she’d dipped under the required 54.85 by one hundredth of a second.

That was well under the 55.39 she ran to take gold at the recent African Games in Ghana where she had the honour of securing South Africa’s 100th medal of the event.

It’s still sinking in that she’ll be packing her bags for Paris in around three months’ time.

“It’s still unbelievable for me to think that I’m an Olympian and I’m so proud of myself now I know that there is even more in store for me,” she told Modern Athlete.

Joseph said both she and her family were in tears after the race. “They were crying and my family can’t stop talking about it. They are really proud of me,” she explained.

Speaking about the race itself, the coaching science student explained: “It was one tough race and really competitive. It was one of the best races in my life and the first time I came so close with the first place [at senior nationals].”

Joseph did indeed push Geldenhuys for much of the race, with the winner being full of praise for her rivals.

“You can’t always just go into a race and think I’m going to run and win by 100 metres so it is very exciting to know that there are girls pushing me because without them it’s difficult to run great times,” said Geldenhuys.

“I think it’s great to know that the juniors are coming up and that the women’s 400m hurdles in South Africa is growing.

“They keep you on your toes because you know it’s anybody’s race… the race isn’t over until you’re over that finish line and it’s fun to know that it’s a fight.”

While Joseph grew up in Worcester in the Western Cape, where she described her community as a rough one where gangsterism is rife, she made the move to Potchefstroom to study and train and that’s made all the difference. While she admits to missing family and friends back home, she knows the move has been worth it to pursue her passion.

As for what the next few months hold, Joseph is headed to the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas from 4-5 May, where the South Africans are looking to qualify their relay teams for the Olympics, and will then look to gain experience in Europe.

“The goal is to run a PB of 53.9,” she said. “I know it’s possible with God next to me.”

Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t hold Jono le Roux back!

As the starting gun fires at 9 am on Friday, April 26th, at the Sani Pass Pub in Lesotho, Jono le Roux, a formidable trail runner and a person living with diabetes, will embark on the challenge of the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg 100 Miler. This isn’t Jono’s first time at the event; last year he finished in 5th place overall in just over 33hrs. However, this year’s race poses new obstacles with significant changes to the route, promising a fresh test of endurance and determination.

Jono’s journey into trail running began in 2015, but it was his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes in 2017 that ignited a deeper commitment to health and fitness. Despite the challenges posed by his condition, Jono has not only embraced ultra-running but has excelled in it. Reflecting on his journey, Jono shares, “Running has provided me with not just a healthier and stronger body but mentally it has also given me so many life lessons. It’s more than just a sport for me, it’s my way of life.”

Managing type 1 diabetes while undertaking endurance sports like ultra-running requires meticulous attention to glucose levels, pacing, and nutrition. Previously, Jono would have had to frequently stop during the race, and check his glucose levels by using the fingerstick method, costing him both time and additional energies, now with advancements in technology this process has been made much easier with the FreeStyle Libre Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system, a device which enables him to monitor his glucose levels in real-time, empowering him to make informed decisions throughout his races.

“My goal for this year’s race is to embrace it fully and soak up all the good vibes,” says Jono. “I’ve grown as a runner since last year, both in experience and maturity. While I aim to complete the race in 27 hours, my ultimate aspiration is to maintain a sustainable running journey, inspiring others along the way.”

Jono’s story is not just about personal triumph; it’s a testament to the advancements in diabetes care and technology. “With great improvements in diabetes care, from insulin upgrades to management systems and incredible tech like continuous glucose monitors, people living with type 1 diabetes can live more freely and, dare I say, ‘normally,'” he expresses gratefully.

As Jono laces up his shoes and prepares to tackle the challenging terrain of the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg, he embodies resilience, determination, and the spirit of overcoming adversity. His journey is an inspiration to all, showcasing that with passion, perseverance, and the right support, anything is possible.