ALL it took was a cricket pitch roller to end the promising athletics and ballet careers of Audrey Louw.
Following a glorious athletics career at Alexander Sinton High between 1969 and 1973, Audrey enrolled at Hewat Training College in 1974 at the tender age of 17 years. She made an immediate impact, setting the College records in the 100m, 200m, long jump and high jump.
Then fate intervened.
“During the training season Mr Idas Joemat (Physical Education Lecturer at Hewat) tied a cricket pitch roller used to flatten and prepare the ash track at Hewat for competition around my waist, using a leather belt. In trying to get the roller moving, I injured my back and that was the end of athletics for me,” says Louw who now runs her own business.
Louw had dreams of combining her teaching and ballet careers to use in her own Ballet School, but this dream never materialised.
While at Sinton she did ballet at a school called Ivy McDonald School of Ballet in Darling Street, Cape Town.
At Sinton, Louw was star material and naturally-gifted at sport. Everything she touched turned to gold. She did gymnastics and played netball and badminton, and was even the Head Girl at Sinton with Christopher Minords being the Head Boy in 1973. She was just 16 turning 17 that year.
She was attractive and got a lot of attention from her peers and schoolteachers.
“People didn’t love Audrey, they loved the athlete,” she says.
Her athletics career started to blossom in Std 6 at a school filled with athletics stars. Sinton was at the very top of athletics during the 1970’s, ruling the A Section and Champion of Champions for more than 10 years.
She was loved and adored by the principal Franklin Joshua who “loved me to bits”, she says.
“He was like a father to me, he was warm and in many ways inspired me to do well academically and on the track,” remembers Louw.
Her father Vernon Louw had sponsored an athletics trophy to the school which Audrey had won on occasion.
“That was a lovely moment when Mr Joshua handed me the trophy,” she says.
In spite of playing other sport, athletics stood out in Louw’s career. She had a taste of it at Heatherdale Primary School, a stone’s throw away from Sinton, before she excelled to such an extent that she became a talking point in athletics circles in high school.
Having interviewed her competitors lately and elsewhere, they all say Louw was the real deal at school.
She was arguably the most outstanding sprinter together with Sharon Alexander of Oaklands and Norma Joseph of Sinton at the time.
“They were excellent athletes but a year or so younger than me. We did compete in the under-17 age group together as there were no under-16 age group. Frances Williams at Sinton, was another frightening sprinter in the girls’ under-15 age group at the time. She would later compete with Alexander and Joseph in the under-17 age group. I had to move up to the Open section,” she says.
Sinton had a plethora of sprinting talent, as Louw was 16 in matric but had to compete in the girls’ open section. Frances and Joseph competed in the girls’ under-17 age group with Sharon Alexander at interschool and Champion of Champions level in 1973.
This move did not make Louw a weaker athlete, on the contrary, she was able to withstand the pressure of competing with the older athletes.
“I had the knack of getting a good start, but I was not in the habit of false starting. I ran with spikes which were very long and as a result I had to lift my knees high automatically. I also had the will to win,” she says.
By the time Louw completed matric she had represented the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU) four times (1971, 1972, 1973- all Sinton and 1974- Hewat).
“My athletics years were one of the best periods of my life,” reminisces Louw.
“The marched pass, the music of the imperialists played at the Green Point Track, aroused a lot of emotion in me. The music made me want to be the best,” she says, pursing her lips in yesteryear determination.
In her matric year, she won the 100m in a wind-assisted time of 12.2 seconds and the long jump in a new record of 5.25m at the South African Senior Schools Sports Association’s meeting at the Athlone Stadium. She improved her long jump record to 5.26m while at Hewat in 1974, the year she lost the sprints to Sinton’s Norma Joseph at the Champion of Champions. (Hewat competed with the high schools up until 1981.)
While at Hewat, she set the college long jump record of 5.21m.
Unfortunately for Hewat, Louw had been at the college for just one year when physical education was no longer offered at Hewat for girls and that Department was moved to Bellville Training College on the old Peninsula Technikon grounds in Bellville.
“It meant I had to travel for the first time having had the privilege of attending primary, high school and college close to home. At first I had to hike to college, later lifts were organised,” says Louw.
Louw majored in English, Mathematics and Sciences while at college and was a schoolteacher by the age of 20.
“I taught Biology to matriculants at Parkwood High School which later was renamed Lotus Senior Secondary School because of its proximity to the area,” she says.
A wonderful talent cut down by a cricket pitch roller in a freak accident.