The first edition of Street Athletics is set to take place on Friday, 24 February in Ikageng, Potchefstroom. The project, brainchild of former Olympic and World Championship silver medallist Hezekiel Sepeng, is focussed on athletics development in the country.
Sepeng was discovered by coach JP van Der Merwe in 1992. Van der Merwe arranged for Hezekiel to be placed in Potchefstroom Boys High and once there he was subject to proper training and the rest as they say is history. Sepeng went on to win the Olympic Silver Medal in the 800m in Atlanta and the World Championship Silver Medal in 1999. In the process he also set the South African record of 1:42.69.
“I was fortunate enough to have been discovered by JP. But there are many kids out there who are like I was, waiting to be discovered. With Street Athletics I am hoping to give those kids an opportunity to be identified and hopefully from the youngsters we see competing in the Street Athletics, we can one day have an Olympic Gold Medal,” said Sepeng, Athletics SA Development Officer.
Street Athletics will take place at 5 different venues (Potchefstroom, Carletonville, Westonaria, Rustenburg and Balfour, final dates to be confirmed) and will be contested over 50m, 150m, 300m and 500m where the top 3 fastest times in every category will go through to the grand finale taking place in Randfontein on 24 March. Age categories permitted to compete will be u13, u15 and u17 athletes.
The sole purpose of these events is to identify potential athletes who have never been exposed to competing in school teams. The event is open to all Schools in the Potchefstroom area, and athletes can pre-enter through their schools or on the day at the venue.
According to Sepeng the idea is to take the athletics to the people and not expect them to travel to get to the athletics. “The project is starting small, but next year the aim is to add more provinces. In the next 5 years we would like to bring Street Athletics to the whole of South Africa.”
Coaches will also join the events on the day in order to identify talented athletes. The general idea is however not to take the kids out of schools, but rather to assist with placing these kids where the facilities and structures for athletics are available.
The athletics is set to take place in Phuduhutswana Street in Ikageng, Potchefstroom and will start at 14h00. All athletes competing on the day will be provided transport to and from various schools, catering as well as T-shirts.