RIEDEWAAN ABDULLAH of Woodlands, who briefly ran for Hewat and Gugulethu clubs respectively, was a sprinter who could upset the applecart in the 100m and 200m – one thing was certain, he had natural speed.
Because of his brilliance and inconsistency, he caused the selectors a headache in 1985. First he beat Edmund Lewis of Paarl Achilles (Boland), the 100m record-holder and multiple sprint champion, so one would have felt this was good enough to make the Western Province team.
Ian Rutgers of Bishop Lavis (Western Province), a former sprint champion, however, then made a reasonable comeback just to complicate matters even more for the selectors.
Places in the Western Province team were at a premium. Rutgers’ form that season made him a certainty for the trip to Port Elizabeth for the SA Board championships along with Nazeem Smith of Hewat (Western Province), the 1984 100m champion. Smith was also the 1985 100m champion, beating Rutgers and Rakesh Shewduth of Natal in Port Elizabeth.
Since Abdullah ran too few races, the Western Province selectors omitted him from the side.
However, in 1986, Abdullah erased Edmund Lewis’ SA Board 100m record of 10,5 seconds. The new mark was 10,3 seconds and barely stood for two weeks when Nazeem Smith improved the record to 10,2 seconds.
Hot and cold
In 1986, big things were expected from Abdullah, but Smith had other ideas. Smith beat Abdullah in the 100m in 10,6 seconds at the Western Province Championships at Vygieskraal. Abdullah turned the tables in the 200m when he won the race in 22,8 seconds. Smith was second in 22,9 seconds.
This time, 1986, Abdullah was selected for the WP team to Paarl, but he did not live up to expectations. He was beaten in the 100m (when he injured himself) by Joseph Jonas of Eastern Province and Kevin Afrika and Nazeem Smith of Western Province. He also did not make it to the 200m final, which Kevin Afrika won.
Strangely, this time, despite his injury and not being placed (he didn’t medal), Abdullah was picked for the SA Board team to compete at the SA Prestige meeting. Disappointingly, though, Abdullah was once again out of the placings.
At best Abdullah was a phenomenon who could pitch up at a race and surprise friend and foe, and perhaps even himself. By beating Edmund Lewis and Nazeem Smith, he had taken two big scalps – those were probably his most notable achievements.