By Clement du Plessis
THIS is the final chapter of a two-part series about former multiple athletics champion, the 71-year-old Johannes Brandt (pictured right in the main photograph).
Read part one here Champion distance runner Brandt called it quits after empty promises
Brandt cuts a disappointed figure throughout the interview in the face of stacking up SA records and titles across all three disciplines of athletics (track, road, cross country) during the 1970s.
In 1974, he won the SAAAB marathon in 2 hours 37 minutes and five seconds. Not bad for an athlete attempting the marathon for the first time. Across the apartheid divide, runners in Stellenbosch were clocking 2 hours and 35 minutes with the top and seasoned runners such as Lood Rabie and Brian Chamberlain running 2 hours 19 minutes and faster.
Enthused by his debut marathon victory, Brandt attempted the Two Oceans marathon unlicensed and unregistered for the event. He ran the event through Fish Hoek towards Chapman’s Peak where two South Peninsula Amateur Athletic club members, who were supporting the event as spectators, reported him to Western Province Amateur Athletic and Cycling Association (as the Western Province Amateur Athletic Union was known in 1975).
He served a six-month suspension and the SP spectators who had supported the Two Oceans 56km marathon got off scot-free. Sacos athletes were not allowed to collaborate with their white counterparts in sport during apartheid.
Brandt kept himself fit during his suspension.
In November 1975, after his suspension, Brandt handed the SP distance runner John Kriel a decisive defeat in the men’s 10 000m at an Andrewena meeting held at the track in the Bellville South railway grounds.
He dominated distance running on the track, cross country and road. He had some intriguing battles with Kriel, and he had Wilfred Daniels mentoring and assisting him with training.
“Wilfred and Alex Carstens would help me with my long runs when I ran from Stellenbosch to Gordon’s Bay (about 30km). They would wait there by car and bring me back home,” he said.
Some notable achievements, of course, were his SAAAB 5000m and 10 000m records. He won the inaugural SAAAB cross country event in Hillside, Port Elizabeth in 1974. And he won the SAAAB marathon on debut in 1974.
Tim Cartwright in his article in February 1975, THE LONELINESS OF THE Coloured LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER, writes that ‘John Kriel’s time of 2 hours and 36 minutes in the marathon and his time of 8 minutes and 56,8 seconds in the 3000m was either within or close on SA Games qualifying times’.
Sacos athletes comparable
He could easily have written this about Brandt in 1974 (2:37,5 in the marathon), or, for that matter, Wilfred Daniels who had clocked 8 minutes and 37 seconds in 3000m in 1975. Interestingly Andrew Ferguson clocked 8 minutes and 34,4 seconds in the 3000m at the Green Point Stadium in 1975. What this indicates is that athletes in the fold of Sacos had been comparable to the SA Games’ qualifying standards in 1975.
The SA Games were run by the SAAAU (the whites’ athletic body) which involved international competition from countries such West Germany, USA, Britain, Japan, France, Rhodesia, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Canada, Sweden and Spain.
Brandt was a rare talent, if not a natural talent, who wanted to make the best of his chances. He was itching to compete against the best.
Taking the plunge
In 1977, Brandt took the plunge and joined the Varsity Old Boys Club (VOB) and finished fifth in the Game marathon in Stellenbosch in a race won by Chamberlain in 2 hours 18 minutes and 30 seconds. VOB won the team event.
“They said the white man was so good. All I wanted to do is show everybody that I can compete against them,” he says.
He adds that he would have run in the cross country event in Bellville on the day, organised by the South African Coloured Corps. The SACC had been running in Sacos events.
Daniels had asked him on the day (November 1977) what he was doing and said to Brandt that he had been prepared for the cross-country race and not the marathon.
Among the best
“Wilfred said, ‘the union is going to suspend you again’, but I was determined to compete in the Game marathon. VOB gave me a vest on the day and said that I am running for them. I was surprised by my performance as I had no proper conditioning for the marathon. I led the race,” enthused Brandt.
He was disappointed with his placing in the marathon. Whether Brandt knew or not, he was easily among the ten top athletes in the country on either side of the apartheid divide for the 42,1km race.
Shortly after the Game marathon, he won a half marathon in Bellville, clocking ‘63 minutes’ as Brandt relayed the story.
In 1978, another disappointment befell Brandt in the half marathon. Again, the competitors were promised an overseas trip, says Brandt, and again no one ever travelled.
But this time the reason was different.
Brandt calls it a day
After leading the half marathon which had been staged in Bellville, he was deliberately misdirected near the finish line.
Holiday Inn, the sponsors of the event, withdrew the prize.
“That was it for me after my third disappointment in marathon racing after being promised an overseas trip on three occasions,” says Brandt.
“I could not bear the jealousy in athletics.”
Brandt is married to Regina. They have five children Quintus, Claudia, Rayno, Reginald, and Jessica.