SA’s Olympic legend Sepeng in Nairobi, motivates youngsters
What you need to know:
- Sepeng, marathon star Josiah Thugwane, alongside swimmers Penelope Heyns and Marrianne Kriel are regarded highly in South Africa, and globally, since 1996 when they won South Africa’s first post-apartheid Olympic Games medals
- With love and respect Sepeng, believes Africa is the next new frontier of athletics capable of welcoming the rest of the world to its events
- The 1998 Commonwealth Games silver medallist cites the Kip Keino Classic, Botswana’s leg of the World Athletics Continental Tour and the Rabat Diamond League meeting as the first stepping stones to a bright future for Africa
South Africa’s 1996 Atlanta Olympics legend Hezekiel Sepeng is in Nairobi to catch up with the stars of tomorrow as he dedicates his post-running life to mentoring and training young athletes.
Sepeng is in Nairobi on an educational tour, enjoying a quiet break from his coaching engagements back at home. He has had a blast with young Kenyan children aged below 10 who marked the World Athletics Day —set aside to promote sports amongst the youth population —educating them and enhancing public awareness on the sport on Thursday.
He trained over 100 children from various Nairobi schools together with other coaches from 22 English-speaking African countries alongside experts from World Athletics, including Catherine O’Sullivan, the global athletics body’s Kids Athletics manager in charge of international relations and development, at Kasarani Stadium.
Sepeng, marathon star Josiah Thugwane, alongside swimmers Penelope Heyns and Marrianne Kriel are regarded highly in South Africa, and globally, since 1996 when they won South Africa’s first post-apartheid Olympic Games medals following the country's re-admission to the Games in 1992.
Heyns won South Africa its first post-apartheid Olympic gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke swimming competitions while Sepeng bagged silver in the 800 metres and Kriel bronze in the 100m backstroke.
Thugwane closed the games with a gold medal at the men’s marathon.
They returned home as special heroes, touching the hearts of millions, including President Nelson Mandela to whom they dedicated their victory in a letter delivered to him by the country’s Olympic committee.
“You personally were a great inspiration to us during preparations for events and indeed during the events themselves. Your outstanding leadership and dedication to the advancement of all people both in South Africa and throughout the world helped us set our goals,” said the letter.
With love and respect Sepeng, believes Africa is the next new frontier of athletics capable of welcoming the rest of the world to its events just like their achievement in Atlanta where South Africa finished 27th overall and first in Africa on the medal standings.
The 1998 Commonwealth Games silver medallist cites the Kip Keino Classic, Botswana’s leg of the World Athletics Continental Tour and the Rabat Diamond League meeting as the first stepping stones to a bright future for Africa, besides Eldoret’s Sirikwa Cross Country Classic.
Coming up in sprints
“Africa is the place to be. I foresee the world coming to Africa. Our athletes will no longer see the need to travel abroad seeking competition opportunities,” he said during a break in the ongoing World Athletics/Africa Athletics Confederation Regional Development Centre coaching course for trainers.
“We are coming up in the sprints with good athletes like (Ferdinand) Omanyala. So we should not get worried of road running taking over the track. I am happy to be in Nairobi to learn to coach young people. We have to start with them from a very young age.”
Marathon icon Ibrahim Hussein, the World Athletics’ Nairobi Regional Development Centre Director, said World Athletics Day is the peak of the week-long coaching seminar for trainers from 22 English-speaking African countries who will apply knowledge attained back in their respective countries.
The trainers included Kenya’s 2007 800 metres champion Janeth Jepkosgei, veteran sprinter Esther Kavaya and coach Godfrey Macharia amongst others.
This is the first practical coaches training seminar in three years at the regional centre after Covid-19 disruptions, said Hussein.
The centre services 22 English-speaking African countries.