BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
This is the final-part about child prodigy Amitha Ramlall, a former SASSSA girl’s under 16 1500m champion and 3000m record holder. (Read part one here)
THE national political scene was a blur for young Amitha as she was barely out of primary school. Her interest, of course, was sport where her dad played a big role.
Her dad had been intent in keeping her fit during winter.
“My dad coached me in the beginning when we resided in Sydenham, Natal. I trained on the grounds in Berea opposite Brickfield road next to Tills crescent Swimming Pool called Tills Crescent Sports grounds and the Asherville grounds which was next to Asherville Swimming Pool. When we relocated to Newlands West, initially, I used Siripat grounds as the area we moved to in Newlands West was new and developing. Occasionally, I had used the grounds at VN Naik School for the Deaf.”
As soon as the grounds were ready for training in the area she lived, Newlands West, she started to train there.
“On Tuesday and Thursday I went to Kings Park Stadium for speed work. Saturdays I competed in club cross country races. Sundays were for the long slow distance (LSD) running and sometimes we ran on part of the Comrades route, next to Botha’s Hill which was very early in the morning. This route overlooks the mountains which had been covered in mist, so we never noticed that we were on the mountains, with all the mist. Sometimes we ran on the beach (South Beach),” she recalls.
Amitha earned both her Natal provincial and South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) colours while a high school athlete at New West Secondary School between 1990 and 1993.
She still remembers what the colours of Natal meant.
“Green was for the grass we trained on, gold (yellow) was for the victory and white was for peace – achieved in 1994.
Amitha held the Natal high schools records in the 1500m (4 minutes and 58,5 seconds) and 3000m (10 minutes and 35,5 seconds) for girls under 16 in 1993.
The SASSSA records were 4:57,2 (1500m) and 10:39,5 (3000m).
What Amitha didn’t say was that the 3000m SASSSA record was under her name in the SASSSA record books in the under 16 age group, along with the names of Noreen Julie and Corinne Bowler (WP – 100m), Julie (200m), and Bronwyn Bock (WP- high jump).
Coach Trevor Smith
This she achieved with the help of Coach Trevor Smith in Newlands West.
“I had a coach by the name of Trevor Smith while living in Newlands West. I ran for a few clubs such as Chatsworth Athletic Club. After, Chatsworth AC, I ran for Sunshine HMP Athletic Club where Rachardt Williams was the chairman. I also trained with Blanche Moila at the Savages Athletic Club.”
The transition from competition in the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) into the new sports order after the release of Mandela in 1990 was tougher, she says, because there were more races and more competition.
Amitha did exceptionally well while still a junior at Savages AC in the Spar ladies 10km challenge 1993, finishing in the sixth position behind the winner Nicole Whitehead (DAC). She was adjudged as the first junior home in the 10km in a time of 37 minutes and 58 seconds ahead of Tanith Maxwell (West) second in 38:04 with Robyn Adendorff (Kloof) third in 38:57.
Amitha owes her genes to her late mum, a sprinter, and her dad, a long-distance runner.
“I took easily to sports as there was a history of sportspersons in my family. It was in my genetic makeup. My mum was a sprinter and my dad a long-distance athlete and boxer and so was his uncle Jimmy Gopal who was a long-distance athlete.”