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Overcoming Adversity, Building a Future

A short story of a young man's struggle to build a future, and of a community that helped.

It takes a village to bring up a child. And it takes a special community to bridge differences of income, of background and, let us say it, of race. Two young men testified to this in 2022 when they honored a father and coach in a moment of sporting spirit. The long-distance coach of a school in a small, rural town, Andries Greeff, had heard of a boy who showed great potential, but whose father had disappeared and whose mother did not have the financial means to send him to secondary school.  With help from the community, a scholarship was organized and Mahomed Batsi found a place in the secondary school and the hostel.

Studious. Photo A Greeff

Mahomed’s single-minded dedication to his sport and school work soon earned the respect and friendship of fellow athletes and Kobus Jordaan, an erstwhile sprinter and coach. Kobus’ son, Raubie, a sprinter like his father, trained, studied and aspired with Mahomed for the future. Mahomed’s dedication and hard training earned him a personal best time of 20:01 in the 6-kilometer cross country at the 2021 South African championships and several gold medals at inter-school championships. He also holds a provincial record for the under-19 steeplechase over 3,000 meters.

His friend, Raubie, equaled his father’s record of 10:64 for the 100-meter sprint on a grass track. The latter was a bitter-sweet moment, though, as Kobus had passed away due to COVID complications late in 2021.

Which brings us to an unlikely moment: At a schools championship on 21 January 2022 the two boys, one a sprinter, one a long distance runner, both entered for a 400-meter sprint in tribute to a departed father and coach: Mahomed to pay his respects to his friend’s father who had often stood in when Mahomed’s mother could not afford to attend the meets, Raubi as a sign of appreciation to the father who had trained and supported him. Their embrace after the race symbolized their shared loss, their shared aspirations and dedication.

Lonely long-distance runner. Photo A Greeff.

Mahomed has completed his school career and was voted Most Versatile Boy at the year-end function of his school. He is now seeking admission at a nearby University. His aspirations are to further his athletics career and qualify himself academically so that he can look after the mother who sacrificed so much for him.

A healthy mind in a healthy body. Photo Rina Heydenreich

A community’s investment in developing young athletes and young people is an investment in the future.

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