Catch me if you can, says Sam de Wet

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THE name Sam de Wet might not resonate with the younger athletes, but De Wet was a big name in athletics during the early 1960s. He was renowned for running and winning any distance from 880 yards and the mile to 5 000m and 10 000m on the track. He held the record in the 10 000m event in a time of 31 minutes and 36,7 seconds set in Bellville.

Athletics coach Robin April (who was an 800m champion and record holder in his own right in 1968) often referred to Sam de Wet during training sessions at the Spartans Amateur Athletics Club in the early eighties. “De Wet dedicated himself to training,” he would proudly tell his young charges.

The Post, a local newspaper the size of two A4 hard covers filled with much text and only a sprinkling of athletics photos, reported on some of De Wet’s achievements. One headline reads: “Sam de Wet does 880 yards in 1 min 56 secs”. In the introduction to this article, De Wet is referred to as “the national champion distance runner” who “returned the fastest time” over the distance – whether he recorded a new record at this specific race, is unfortunately not reported.

Sam De Wet Mile
The day Sam de Wet blew away his opponents.

The 880 yards race was run at Green Point Track during the Andrewena Cup Series. It describes how Abie Carelse “made the pace” when he led from Western Province champion Jacobus van der Berg, Carl Hendricks and De Wet.  With 220 yards left Van der Berg put up a challenge, but De Wet “sprinted home to win by 20 yards”.

Going the extra mile

De Wet, from the Elsie’s River Amateur Athletics Club, was also a “miler”.  As indicated, De Wet also participated in the 5 000m and 10 000m and held the records in both events.  Leslie Titus (1963) and John Webb (1964) were former mile champions, too.

According to another report in the Post, March of 1966, De Wet ran on a poor track and in torrid heat to a new mile record of 4 minutes and 11,2 seconds. De Wet ran in an era when Cecil Blows of Trafalgar was at the top of his sprinting game.

Other athletes of that era included Jacobus van der Berg (he would later become coach of several Western Province teams in the 1970s), Abie Carelse, Carl Hendricks, Victor Barron, John Lottering (sometimes also referred to as John Julius Lottering), Kenny Roman, Robin April, George van der Ross, Okkie van Sensie, Eddie Michaels, Eileen McGregor, Rhona Henry, Mildred Friesta and Irene Mathys.

The younger athletes at the time were Brian Rust, Michael Jafta, Rupert Williams, Faldie Kalam, Allan O’Ryan, Jackie Swanepoel, Gus Herman, Herman Gibbs, Henry Davidse, Mogamat Kariem, Alex Abercrombie, Ivan Masters, Audrey Louw, Bruce Blakely, Andy Rutgers, George Hector. Gibbs was the junior men’s 100 yards champion in 1969. (Post, Feb, 1969)

 Terrence Smith’s name also appears as a twelve-year-old competing in the under 14 age group in 1969. (Post, April 1970)

2 thoughts on “Catch me if you can, says Sam de Wet

  • November 19, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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    I forgot to mention who for me was the most talented SACOS runner was .. . NICO VERMUELEN, when he and Patty Francis went over to run for the whites, they were turning heads, and suddenly Nico was dipping under 2hrs 20minutes for the standard marathon, something that was hard to do under SACOS. We must respect those further in the field who helped to make the races, such as GENADENDAL to CALEDON, a great event. I ran my best time there and ended 4th in the last run before I got sick.

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  • November 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    This is great stuff !! Glad to see that somebody finally wrote about our athletes. The runners mentioned above had natural talent and so much of them trained without a coach whereas the white athletes had everything and got their way. There are, of course, many other names that were not mentioned here, and those were the real fighters, especially in the marathons, some like the Nichols brothers of Western Province who were strong runners, and even the tough as nails, the little man Willie Davids (brother of Christy Davids). Today marathon running is a joke because in each race there only about 10% of the field who are runners, the rest are joggers who give running a bad name and makes me want to run far away from the marathon events.

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