Claudine casts her mind back to the  ‘Olympics of the Oppressed’

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BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

THIS is the final chapter of a two-part series about former high jump champion Claudine Fisher who held the SASSSA girls open high jump record in 1987.

 Read part one here: High jump champ Claudine soared above adversity

FISHER also tells the story of how her family had been forcibly removed from Steurhof, Diep River in Cape Town in 1964 to a one-bedroom council house in Steenberg where her parents had to raise eight children.

“Those were tough times,” she says.

Later in life, she had to contend with student protests. As a result, she had to repeat Std 8 (grade 10).

The Sacos festivals opened with a gymnaestrada at both the 1982 and 1988 Sacos Festivals held at the Athlone Stadium and UWC Sports Complex.

Fisher strikes one as a resilient and committed activist adhering to the principles of Sacos.

“I subscribed to the slogan “no normal sport in an abnormal society”. This slogan was a powerful antidote to the propaganda of the apartheid regime and the manoeuvres of white sports bodies which made false claims of non-discrimination,” says a focused Fisher.

Conditions

Fisher clearly remembers the conditions under which she had participated in the sport.

“Being part of a non-racial sporting environment taught me a lot about myself as well as about other people. We used to stay at people’s houses when you got selected to a team (WP or SASSSA) on away trips. Sometimes circumstances at the homes you stayed at were nothing compared to where you came from. Some would be worse than your circumstances at home and others would be better, and so you learned to adapt to any situation.

Top jumper Claudine Fisher of Crestway High School as her fans knew her.

There was no luxury such as a hotel. Sometimes we would sleep at schools on mattresses in classrooms and queue for food like you’re in the army. But these things made me stronger and contributed to me becoming the woman I am today,” she says.

Introduction to Sacos

Fisher remembers her introduction to Sacos at the Sacos Festival which opened with a gymnaestrada at the Athlone Stadium in 1982. A subsequent festival was held at UWC Sports Complex in 1988 which was the last of its kind.

“The 1988 Sacos Festival was the Olympics of the Oppressed. Sacos also strived for equality on as well as off the field. Competing under the banner of Sacos meant that there were restrictions as to where an athlete of colour could compete. Black and Coloured South Africans could only compete against their own race on a local level and our national colours were black and gold,” she says.

Respect and humility

She found athletics under Sacos to be “great fun and exciting”.

“High Schools athletics was always great fun and exciting. The whole school would attend to support their athletes.  If you were known to be a ‘definite’ to bring in points for your school, you were idolised by all.  Just wearing a WP blazer or tracksuit top, those years, had every head turn and admire you.  Even the taxi drivers would hoot while passing you on your way to training and community members used to comment by saying ‘Daar gaan onse WP’. That was such an inspiration to an athlete of those years. You didn’t compete for money, but for respect and humility,” she says.

Claudine Fisher shows the concentration of a top-class high jumper.

In spite of enjoying high school athletics, she found club athletics to be tough where she encountered the top high jumpers in Western Province.

Club athletics tough

“Club athletics was tough. At the time I was a senior ladies high jumper there were up and coming youngsters from high school, like Tania Brown, Nariman Rylands and Cheryl October. There was also Bronwyn Bock-Jonathan whom I never had the chance to compete against, but she was my teammate in the Western Province Netball team.

Bock, originally from Mitchell’s Plain, has a doctorate in sports science and lives in Australia. She is a former WPSSSU and SASSSA high jump record holder with a best height of 1,70m. She captained the South African Netball team in post-apartheid South Africa.

Shaun Vester

Although there were many top class sportspersons in both netball and athletics, Fisher found the sprinting talents of Shaun Vester “as the most amazing athlete she has ever seen” during sports isolation in South Africa.

Internationally she says Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya have made an impression on her.

She is no longer involved in athletics and spends much of her time with netball.

“Through my netball development programmes, I’m trying by all means to transfer those values and principles I learned in Sacos to the youth of today,” she says.

Square Hill United 

The newspaper article reports the high jump record of Claudine Fisher.

She was introduced to the Square Hill United netball club by her PT teacher Ms Fredaline Steyn of Sibelius. Fisher played as a wing attack and centre.

She was later recruited to the Livingstone netball club.

“A scout from the Livingstone netball club Ms Ray Carlier recruited me and another athlete Anita Witbooi (centre player) of Macassar High School to the club.  Livingstone became the top club in the WP during those years,” says Fisher.

National honours

As a player, she represented WPSSSU and WP (clubs) as well as SASSSA and SA Clubs in netball under the banner of Sacos.

As an official in post-apartheid South Africa, she represented the country at two World Youth Netball Cup Tournaments (as Team manager)

She also represented South Africa at a number of International senior competitions, including two World FAST5 Series events.

Baby Proteas

Fisher also represented SA as a coordinator at the South American Street Football Championships in Santiago, Chile.

She was the Gauteng North Netball President for two years and thereafter took over the Vice Presidency and stayed in that position for 10 years.

She is the Spar Baby Proteas SA Under 21 manager and the Development Officer at Netball South Africa as well as being responsible for EPG (Eminent Persons Group).

Fisher is married to Arnold Claassen, a former sprinter at Heathfield High School. Their son Damien, 21, is a third-year sports science student at the University of Pretoria and their daughter, Jade, 18, is a part-time student.

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