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Overcoming Adversity, Building a Future

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 of 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, equalled 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.

Lonely long-distance runner. Photo A Greeff.

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.

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, young people is an investment in the future.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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