THIS is part one of the Johannes Brandt story in a two-part series.
JOHANNES Brandt of Cradock had come a long way in a distinguished and roller-coaster of an athletics career filled with disappointment. All of this ultimately saw him quit the sport.
Struck down by malnutrition, damp and cold, contributed to three-year-old Johannes Brandt being unable to walk and being hospitalised in 1950 in Stellenbosch, a town about 50km from central Cape Town. The family had moved to Stellenbosch when he was one-year-old. He attended Rhenish, a missionary school in Alexander Street in the 1950s.
These days Rhenish primary (Doornbosch Road) and high school (Koch Road) for girls only exists in Stellenbosch.
Whether Brandt’s health condition prompted him psychologically in later years to strengthen his legs, is a moot point. Brandt was always running up and down like a jack in the box in the rural setting of Stellenbosch.
By the late 1960s, Brandt had returned to the provincial hospital as a pharmacist’s assistant.
Not being an early riser, he battled to be on time for work.
“I used to sleep until the last minute and then run to the hospital to be on time for work. This happened most mornings,” he said.
Benefits of running
Not realising the benefits of running that would aide him in athletic competitions, Brandt had been busy building up vast reserves of stamina and, at the same time, he was strengthening his legs.
Brandt is a reasonably large man with muscular legs and a strong upper body.
Future track star
He met a future track star and national coach Wilfred Daniels who had also worked at the hospital. Daniels was already a member at the Elsie’s River Amateur Athletic Club in Cape Town when they met.
“Wilfred had noticed me running for some time and asked whether I would be interested in running the Caledon to Genadendal race. This race was about 30km. I said to him that I wasn’t an athlete and a member of a club. Wilfred’s reply was that the race was open to members and non-members,” explained Brandt.
Brandt needed little further persuasion and ran the race. He finished fourth in his first competition behind seasoned athletes John Korasie (ER), Sydney Sauls (Croftons) and a chap, he says, called Mitchell from Spartans.
He remembers his future nemesis and arch-rival John Kriel of South Peninsula finishing in the 10th position.
Beating John Kriel
In 1971, he beat the much-talked about and popular Kriel in a 10 000m track race in Paarl.
“On that day the athletics bug bit me,” said Brandt.
However, Brandt comes across as if he had a greater interest in road running than cross country and track athletics where he was to become a South African champion, too, under the banner of the South African Council on Sport, a national anti-apartheid sports movement in South Africa.
Kriel, Korasie, Sauls and Edgar Cloete were some of the athletes dominating the road scene at the time.
Respect for Korasie
He tells of his great respect for Korasie and how he constantly came second and third to him in the road races.
“I was getting sick and tired of coming second or third and beat Korasie in a 5000m race on the track in Paarl and a 10km road race in Wetton in 1973,” said Brandt.
Even though Brandt was doing well as a newcomer to the sport, he was still relatively inexperienced in the three disciplines of track, cross country and road running athletics although he was winning here and there and slotting in behind the winner in second and third spots on other occasions in 1973.
He came second in a marathon organised by Hewat Training College. At the time, only college students could represent Hewat at club meetings. Korasie ‘won’ the race with Brandt second. Kriel ‘seized up’ 300m from the tape and managed third place.
Story to tell
Brandt has a story to tell though about the events during the Hewat marathon and the promise of one of three overseas trips in his athletics career.
Said Brandt: “The organisers of the Hewat marathon promised an overseas trip to the winner. Naturally, I was inspired to do well. The marathon was run on an in-and-out course towards Strandfontein on the False Bay coast. I had led the race for most of the way. At the turn, I could see how far Korasie and Kriel were. Two miles from the finish, Korasie passed me. He had been picked up by his brothers in a kombie and dropped off near where I was running. He looked unbelievably fresh. Kriel stopped running 300m from the finish line but managed to complete the race in third place.”
He was bitterly disappointed that this happened together with the empty promise of an overseas trip.
“Korasie had joined the South African Coloured Corps (the army) from Elsie’s River and subsequently died in a landmine explosion”, said Brandt.
- Read part two next week. Brandt was class in the marathon on both sides of the apartheid divide.