Cross-country races thrived in the Cape

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By Clement du Plessis

THE Western Province Amateur Athletic and Cycling Association played an integral part in organising the different disciplines of athletics in those dark days of apartheid which dates back to the 1950s when athletes such as Sam de Wet, Leslie Titus, Harry Hendricks, Willie Londt, and Richard Rive missed out on international sport.

The Western Province Amateur Athletic and Cycling Union (WPAA & CUC) was established in 1901.

The name of the WP athletics organisation had changed over time and eventually settled on the name the Western Province Amateur Athletics Union in the late 1970s when the two organsations; cycling and athletics became independent sports organisations.

Robin April, like many distance athletes, participated in cross-country races.

This was before the establishment of the South African Council on Sport in March 1973 in Durban when Norman Middleton of Natal, a pro-black supporter of essentially football, led Sacos, a predominantly coloured organisation which had its roots firmly planted in its political wing, the ultra-left New Unity Movement.

National Sports Congress

The discussion whether Sacos had been nonaligned was tripped up at the time of ‘unity’ in 1991 when it chose to stay out of international sport.

The fledgling National Sports Congress (the NSC, a black national sports organisation aligned to the ANC) steamrolled Sacos as it hurtled towards, first, Calcutta (cricket) and, then, Barcelona (the 1992 Olympics).

Ironically, the selection of a lily-white ‘national’ cricket team to Calcutta to play the Indians seemed expedient at the time, and the hullabaloo of development sport remained just that – a hullabaloo.

Julius Lottering of Croftons was often tipped as a favourite in cross-country races.

The athletes strutting the world stage today are not from the development programmes which means the SA government got no ‘bang for its buck’ as it poured in millions of rand into supposedly development programmes around South Africa.

International Olympic Committee

Thousands of athletes on both sides of the apartheid divide had missed out on international sport because of the ruling National Party government’s racial policy (1948-1994); the separation of whites from blacks which culminated in South Africa’s sporting isolation from 1970-1991 (in the case of athletics from 1964-1988).

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the decision in Lausanne, Switzerland after white South Africa failed to renounce racial discrimination in sport in its own country on competition between white and black athletes.

Hettie May of Trafalgar is on the right.

Sam de Wet of Elsie’s River and Leslie Titus of South Peninsula, who were near world-class athletes in the 1950s and 1960s, lost out to international sport, like thousands of sportspersons in South Africa.

Sterling performances

(Two Springbok athletes attest to this fact in a newspaper cutting, see De Wet and Titus story on the website, www.athleticsclipboard.co.za)

During this period De Wet (ER), Leslie Titus (SP), Julius Lottering (Croftons), the brothers John and Ronald Webb (Croftons), Alex Moses, Abe Carelse (ER), Jacobus van der Berg (ER), John Korasie (ER), Solomon Briesies (Olympia) and Robin April (Athlone) captured the newspaper headlines for their sterling performances in athletics across all three disciplines (track, road and cross country).

The ladies comprised of June Ernstzen (Croftons), Mildred Friesta, Hettie May (all Trafalgar) and Rhona Henry (Croftons).

Cross-country races were held at Newlands Forest, School of Industry in Ottery, Wetton Golf Course, and Zeekoevlei.

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