Bonteheuwel blitz holds his own against the top guns

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BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

This is the first chapter of a two-part series about Bonteheuwel sprinter Lodewyk Lakay of Olympiads Amateur Athletics Club who twice won the Western Province senior men’s 100m title ahead of a stellar field of athletes. Lakay also represented the Western Province Senior Schools’ Sports Union in the sprints.

LODEWYK Lakay of the Mitchell’s Plain-based Olympiads Amateur Athletics Club always threatened the opposition (with the occasional scalp to boot) when running in the august company of Nazeem Smith, Shaun Vester, Bobang Phiri, Simon Scheepers and a resurgent Havilyn Elders.

The Big Four sprinters in 1988 saw Bobang Phiri, Lodewyk Lakay, Nazeem Smith and Shaun Vester go hell-for-leather in the sprints at the Wednesday night meetings held at the University of Western’s Cape athletics track.

Also in the mix in the late 1980’s were former colleges’ champions Esmond Zimri (1984) and Ashley Taylor (1987).

Lakay was often a sub-11 second sprinter in the 100m. He ran the 200m under 22 seconds on several occasions too.

Exhilarating sprinting  

For the most part, these sprinters dished up some exhilarating sprinting at the midweek Maskew Miller Longman student meetings at the University of the Western Cape from 1987-1991.

Lakay of Modderdam High School in Bonteheuwel, who came through the ranks of the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union as a boys’ open sprinter in 1987, had the pedigree to be one of the great sprinters of “our time”.

Although Lodewyk Lakay was the understudy to Shaun Vester at WPSSSU level in 1987, he did manage to put one over him in the 100m at club level.

He represented the WPSSSU at the South African Senior Schools Sports Association’s athletics meeting on the clay track in Paarl in 1987, running second to a phenomenal talent in Vester in both the 100m and 200m. On the day Vester had set a whirlwind time of 21,4 seconds in the 200m, breaking the SASSSA record of 21,8 seconds previously held by Kevin Africa of Western Province.  (Boland’s Francisco Naude held the 100m record of 10,5 seconds.)

 Central Primary School

Lakay started out as a sprinter and long jumper at Central Primary School in Bonteheuwel where he earned Western Province Schools’ Sports Board colours. He often featured in the top three in these events. His stack of diplomas is a testimony to his achievements.

He only featured in athletics in his matric year in 1987 while at high school, the year he qualified for the WPSSSU team alongside Vester. The following year he cracked the nod at senior level, first as a member of Spartans and then as Olympiads.

“I found the transition from schools to clubs difficult as I wasn’t being coached and had no mentor to instil in me the belief that I had it in me to be a good athlete,” he says.

No coach

Despite the vacuum of not having a coach, he nonetheless upset the top sprinters with a best of 10,5 seconds achieved in a 100m heat with Vester in the race. He had twice clocked 10,5 seconds over 100m. Lakay recorded a string of 10,6’s in the 100m, and a 10,8 seconds on a bone-hard Florida track in Ravensmead.

He had proven he was quick enough and belonged with the best.

Shaun Vester 

This was one of two occasions when Lodewyk Lakay clocked 10,5 seconds in the 100m.

Said Lakay: “Shaun was on everybody’s lips. To know that he was going to compete at the meeting made me afraid and nervous. He was everybody’s biggest rival. To have beaten him [in 10,5 seconds over 100m at UWC in 1988] was the greatest feeling I had.  The win confirmed that I was at the level of the greatest sprinters of my era. I was privileged to have beaten Bobang, Ashley, Nazeem, Andy Timmy and so many great sprinters along the way. I enjoyed being at the top of my game.  Beating my rivals put an end to the taunting in my community that I could not beat the Shaun Vesters of the world!”

Craig Steyn

Of all the athletes mentioned, Lakay says Vester and the never-say-die Craig Steyn were his greatest rivals.

Lodewyk Lakay of Olympiads was a consistent sprinter in the late 1980s and in 1990.

“Craig was devastating over the 200m, he may not have run as quick as Vester [20,8 seconds], but he was consistent in the 200m,” says Lakay of Steyn who had a wonderful junior career but a short senior career owing to his studies at UWC.

Lakay himself was a consistent sprinter in 1988.

Competed too often

“My only regret (besides the Sacos incident) was that I competed every week in the club meetings. I had no guidance in preparing for the bigger meets, or being selective in the event I would run on the day. I was running as a senior athlete when I was 19 years old,” says Lakay.

Being as young as he was, Lakay stayed under the radar. He wasn’t one of those sprinters who announced himself.

“I never thought of myself as being a good athlete. I had to prove myself and earn my WP colours, [the top regional athletics honours in the Cape]. I tried any event, even the long jump to get my province colours. You had to finish in the top three to get selected for an event. It was tough,” said Lakay.

In part two next week:

Sacos put the skids on top sprinter Lakay

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