Sprinting for gold one leap at a time


Phakama High School sprinter Athenkosi Makalima was one of the shining stars in this year’s False Bay Zone C Section School’s Athletics championships in Vygieskraal, Athlone, on Tuesday.

The day-long track and field event featured Intsebenziswano, Phandulwazi, Fezeka, Intlanganiso, Oscar Mpeta, Zisukhanyo, Phakama, Aloe, Lentegeur, Cathkin and Silverstream high schools.

The youngster from Lower Crossroads finished second in the 100m hurdles, before going all the way to take first place in the 100m sprint.

Athenkosi, a Grade 10 pupil, seemed to be calm before and during both races, as he didn’t show any signs of nervousness.

He was, however, quick to note that it was not as easy down on the track as it might have looked up in the stands.

This, he said, was because of the nerves and the sense of not knowing what to expect from his opponents.

“That (not knowing his opponents) made things even more difficult, because I couldn’t plan around their weaknesses. The only option I had left was to get off the starting blocks and run as fast as I could,” he said.

That’s what he did in the 100m hurdles, sprinting his way into second place. However, things could have turned out badly in the 100m sprints.

The youngster slipped just as he took his first step off the starting blocks but, to his credit, recovered well to win the race.

That split-second moment said a lot about his character. Instead of limping off the track, he gritted his teeth and got down to business.

This young athlete is determined to go all the way to the Western Province championships and beyond, come end of the season.

Tuesday’s performance mirrored Athenkosi’s efforts last year when he got through this stage of the competition with ease, going on to compete in the Zonal championships at the Bellville Velodrome.

“I worked hard in the build-up to that competition, but things didn’t go the way I had planned. I finished third, and, because my time was not good enough, couldn’t make it to the Western Province Championships,” he said

“Yes, that was disappointing, but, thankfully, I have learnt a lot from that experience, and the plan is to go all the way this year.

“I know what to expect this time around and have worked harder to improve my running and technique. I’ve been practising long before the athletics season started, so I feel sharp and ready.

“I try focusing more on my own game, because I found out that trying to plan around what you think others can do is a problem. It is better to lose, having done your own thing, the way you know it,” he said.

Athenkosi did look sharp and maybe the fact that he is competitive not only in one sport played a role.

He is also a goalkeeper for Madalay Local Football Association (LFA)-based Super Eagles Football Club. He said that position and his athletics complemented each other in many ways.

“Both require a sharp eye, and you have to have quick reflexes. So, yes, they keep me on my toes all the time,” he said.

The youngster is understandably highly ambitious. Like any other young athlete out there he wants to see himself wearing the national colours at the highest level.

“I know it is an achievable goal. I just have to take it one step at a time.

“I will have to make my mark in the Western Province colours first and do well in national competitions.

“With hard work and taking opportunities that come my way, I know everything is possible,” he said.