Craig Steyn stamped his authority in 1985

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This is part two of a three-part series.

The feature photograph pictures Craig Steyn (WP) beating Teano Patience (WP) and Shaun Vester (WP) in the 200m in a time of 21,4 seconds in Paarl in 1986.

Read part one here: Craig Steyn’s star shone bright like a diamond

AS a member of the Stellenbosch Amateur Athletics Club Craig would participate under the auspices of South African Amateur Athletics Board (SAAAB and the Western Province Amateur Athletics Union (WPAAU).

Craig Steyn is tucked in behind Jantjie Marthinus who is standing five places to the left from the WPAAU captain in 1975 Esmond Zimri in white tracksuit top.

As a school’s athlete at Cloetesville High School Craig competed under the auspices of SASSSA and the Boland Senior Schools Sports Union (BSSSU).  The principal of the school from 1979 to September 1989, Mr A L G April, valued athletics very highly. There were times when he would budget for as many as 24 buses to transport athletes, pupils, teachers, and parents to the athletics interschool meetings at Dal Josaphat in Paarl.

SASSSA and SAAAB champions

Under Mr April’s patronage, the school produced a number of SASSSA and SAAAB athletes and champions such as Elizabeth Meloyer, Jeannetta Abrahams, Priscilla Windwaai, Derrick Hendricks, Charlene Pojie, Nawaal Luiters, Rubin Steyn and, of course, Craig Steyn.

When February 1985 dawned, Craig started the process to cement his name as one of the true stars under the South African Council on Sport (Sacos) banner. He collected seven SA titles and four SA records in 1985 and took this form into 1986 and delivered world-class performances over the 100m, 200m, and long jump.

Eight titles and seven SA records in two years

He claimed another SA title and set a further three SA records in 1986 – that is eight titles and seven SA records in two years.

His first race on 9 February 1985 in the green and white vest of Stellenbosch he had run in a low key 100m dash at the Vygieskraal stadium. His first place earned him selection to the Western Province Squad from which the team to participate at the SAAAB Championships in Port Elizabeth in April would be selected.

The day Craig Steyn ran 10,62 seconds as a sixteen-year-old in 1985 was the breakthrough in his athletics career.

At his next meeting in Ravensmead on 16 February, he announced his arrival on the big stage, by beating Havilyne Elders of Titans in the 100m heat into second place, clocking 10,62 seconds. The true champion that he was, Havilyne recovered and narrowly beat Craig in the 100m final in 10.9. Sheer determination saw Craig win the 200m in 22.4s. Mogamat Toffar in his article on the Ravensmead Athletics meeting in the Burger of 19 February 1985 called Craig “n blitstrein met spierkrag” (an express train with muscle).

On 2 March 1985 at the Boland Senior Schools Sports Union Championships, Craig won the boys u/17 100m in a record time of 11.1s also winning the 200m and the long jump.

Sets himself apart

In the rarefied air of Newlands, Johannesburg at the SASSSA Championships on 6 April 1985, Craig set himself apart from the rest when he ran three u/17 SASSSA records by winning the 100m in 10.7 seconds, beating Teano Patience (WP) and Leonard Jonas (WP); the 200m in 21.7, with Clint Cloete (Boland) second and Patience (WP) third and; the long jump in 7,04m. Truly an amazing feat – not only for the times and distance he achieved but also for the class of competition he outpaced on the day.

He followed this up a week later on 13 April 1985, with another unbelievable three gold medals in the SAAAB tournament on the ash track of Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth.

The 1985 results reflect Craig Steyn’s stunning performance at the SAAAB meeting in Port Elizabeth following his equally stunning performance at the SASSSA Champs in Newlands, Johannesburg where he won all four of his events in record-breaking time and distance (long jump).

He won the 100m in 11.2, the 200m in 22.4 and the long jump in 7.05 again leaving such stars as Havilyne Elders, Henry Kemp (Boland) and Ashley Taylor (WP) in his wake. These victories were so much sweeter for Craig, who hailed from a very close-knit family, because his older brother, Rubin, had done some slaying of his own by winning the 800m in 1:56,5s by leaving Christo Gouws, the South African Junior Men record holder, in his wake. Rubin also picked up a silver medal for second place in the 400m.

Bus trips

These performances demand respect if one bears in mind that it was not achieved on tartan, but on ash tracks. Furthermore, between the SASSSA Championships and the SAAAB Championships, the athletes endured two long bus trips – one from Paarl to Johannesburg and back and then, less than five days later, another bus trip to Port Elizabeth and back. And these were not luxury buses!

The following week (20 April 1986) at the SAAAB Prestige Meeting in Cape Town, he jumped 7.28m in the boys’ u/17 long jump. This was his seventh SA title and fourth SA record in the space of two weeks.

Student politics

Craig achieved three-second places at the 1986 SASSSA Championships in Cape Town. He conceded the 100m to Festus Faroa, whose lightning-quick start was even more impressive on the day. The 200m went to Teano Patience, who ran the bend exceptionally hard to put enough daylight between him and Craig. And the long jump went to the experienced Daniel Orange.

The takeover between Craig Steyn and Teano Patience was perfect during their record-breaking run in the junior men’s 4X100m relay at the first SAAAB Prestige meeting held at the Vygieskraal stadium in 1985.

The arrival of Shaun Vester and Teano Patience in the junior men’s age group in club athletics in 1986 coincided with Craig losing his concentrated focus on athletics as he got more and more involved in student politics.

Did not give an inch

But still, Vester and Patience did not have it all their own way because whenever the three were in the same competition, not an inch was given. Craig still achieved three records in 1986. He improved his junior men’s long jump record to 7.37m, anchored the SASSSA 4 x 100m to a time of 42.2 seconds at the SAAAB Prestige meeting. The rest of the quartet were, Vester (backstraight), Patience (3rd leg) and Leonard Jonas (1st leg).  And he blitzed the record in the junior men’s 200m in 21.4s for the last SA record of his career at the SAAAB Championships in Paarl in 1986.

Allan Parrott was an Afrikaans teacher and athletics and cross-country coach at Cloetesville High School from 1983 to 1996. As a coach of the Stellenbosch Amateur Athletics club, he followed Craig’s athletics career from 1978 with interest and from time to time had a hand in his coaching until October 1984 when he took over Craig’s coaching.

  • Athletics Clipboard will feature part three next week. 

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