Donovan Wright reached out, survived and won !

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“NO man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne

Donovan Wright was certainly not on “an island entire of itself” during the days when he struggled with finding a permanent place to stay.

Donovan Wright
The 1996 Comrades Marathon race that changed Donovan Wright’s life.

He drifted in and out of accommodation from a damp Wendy House to several temporary accommodations in Mitchell’s Plain and Belhar.

In between moving from house to house, he trained to be a top athlete with meagre resources at his disposal.

As a young family man, Wright experienced hardship first hand but a circle of friends helped him through his darkest days.

True friendship

“Moos Hartnick taught me the meaning of true friendship when he unselfishly stepped in to financially rescue my family situation. Moos sold his house and gave me some money to bridge the gap,” explains Wright.

Hartnick is a former athlete of the Western Province Amateur Athletics Union (WPAAU).

Later, Wright managed to secure work as a lecturer at the University of the Western Cape.

He continued to be a top athlete while at UWC and captained the athletics team.

Decland Wright
The Wright genes seem to have fallen wholly on Decland, 12 (he turns 13 in August).

While at UWC he was fortunate to be in the company of stellar athlete Jantjie Marthinus, the former South African Amateur Athletics Board senior men’s 800-metre champion and record holder.

Marthinus was a seven times SAAAB 800m champion and a two times champion during unity.

Race ferocity

“Many people helped with my athletics but none more so than a Sacos and South African great Jantjie Marthinus. Janneman taught me true race ferocity. He taught me to be mentally tough in athletics and at my place of work,” says Wright.

Wright acknowledges the roles Shaun Abrahams, Michael Toll, Bobang Phiri, and Tobias Philander played in his personal and athletics life.

“Tobie was the one who sharpened my political consciousness and taught me how to stand firm in the ugly face of adversity. He inspired me to walk out with the South African team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The lighting of the Olympic Torch inspired me to be a better athlete,” says Wright.

Shadrack Hoff
Shadrack Hoff, the SA 15km road record-holder, assists Decland with training.

Arguably SAAAB’s top athlete, Hennie Moses, was another who made a deep impression on him as a young athlete and that he “had the privilege of working with Hennie as coach in some of the Boland cross country meetings”.

The influences and roles these athletes played in the life of Wright had its desired effects.

Great fortitude

From being the SAAAB senior men’s javelin champion in 1990, the WPAAU captain (1991), the SAAAB captain (1991), a top 1500m athlete to the double gold medallist in the Comrades is a story of a man being right-minded and carrying his hardship with great fortitude.

Such strong-mindedness, pluck and fearlessness formed the backbone of Wright’s successes on the track and off it.

He went on to make great strides and he is particularly proud of his marathon record in Oudtshoorn of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 25 seconds. This is still his personal best time.

Eclipsed records

At his peak, he and John September dominated road running in Western Province.

”As an example – Stephen and his brother John Donald were true legends – I eclipsed ALL their records. Ewald Bonzet was a legend, and John (September) broke ALL his records,” says Wright.

Shaun Abrahams
Shawn Abrahams is a close friend of Donovan Wright. Abrahams is a former SASSSA 1500m record-holder (3:59,0 set in 1990). Barely two years out of school, Abrahams clocked 1:47, 23 in the 800m.

Having gained a wealth of experience in athletics, Wright was able to plough back into the athletics community.

Shadrack Hoff

Of the many athletes he had coached, he highlights Shadrack Hoff, 43, whom he has coached for the past four years. Last year, Hoff qualified for the SA senior cross country team to China.

Hoff is also the joint record-holder with Meshack Mogotsi of the SA 15km record of 42 minutes and 58 seconds.

Sam Flatela, another athlete in the Wright stable, clocked 3 hours and 12 minutes in the Two Oceans 56km marathon.  Flatela’s best finish in the Two Oceans is a top second-place.

Wright genes

The Wright genes seem to have fallen wholly on his son Decland, 12 (he turns 13 in August), who has also gotten into the habit of breaking records.

Decland is a member of the Brotherhood Community Athletics Club in Eldorado Park.

“Decland is still there and he would like to represent the club at an IAAF Diamond League meeting in future,” says proud dad Donovan.

Decland holds world records in the 600m, 1000m and 5000m and recently he attempted the 300m record. See youtube video.

Click on the link below to read about Decland’s 1000m world record as an 11-year old in 2014.

Just recently Decland has run 12 minutes and 12 seconds in a 4km cross country run in Orange Farm, a township located approximately 45 km from Johannesburg. The fastest time on the day in all age groups.

Decland Wright
Decland Wright, in the blue vest, is seen here in a competition with senior athletes. On the left is Shadrack Hoff.

Decland’s achievements are phenomenal. He has numerous accolades, and it really is a disgrace that a youngster of his calibre in a democratic South Africa is not highlighted on the pages of the mainstream media, let alone on the sports channels of television and radio.


This youngster ought to be an inspiration to his peers from Orange Farm to Mitchell’s Plain. Instead, he is an isolated beacon of hope to his club mates at his athletics club in Eldorado Park.

Decland’s coach is American-based Tom Swartz who has a Master’s Degree in Sports Physiology. Swartz is studying for a PhD.

Locally, Decland is closest to Shadrack Hoff who assists with his coaching.

As a youngster, Decland “hangs out” with Hezekiél Sepeng and Hendrick Ramaala.

Here is a list of some of Donovan Wright’s achievements, which serves as an inspiration to young Decland:

  1. Married 23 years.
  2. Uithenhage, first SAAAB colours for cross country.
  3. Durban, first SAAAB title 15km junior champion.
  4. SATISA, SATISCO, SATISSU, USSA multiple medallist 1500m, 3000m steeple chase, 5
    000m and 21.1km.
  5. Debut marathon, 1994 Winelands 42.2km, win and selected for SA colours
    to Japan 1995.
  6. Won 27 Marathons, most in record time such as the Oudtshoorn marathon in 2h 17min 25secs.
  7. Two Oceans PB in 3h 13min 01secs, up Comrades 5h35 min37 and 100km in 6h 46 minutes and 10 seconds.
  8. AWARDS – UWC Sportsman of the Year, WPA Road runner of the year, Spirit
    of Comrades, University of Stellenbosch Golden Key.
  9. World Championship best performances – students in Japan 10th marathon and 1st in 3000m warm up games; Seniors in Holland 100km in 7th; Masters in Spain marathon 2nd, represented South Africa six times.
  10. Coach of Dougan and Decland Wright.

See complete list on:

2 thoughts on “Donovan Wright reached out, survived and won !

  • July 9, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Dear Publisher, Donovan was definitely an inspiration to many. I was fortunate to be his physiotherapist in 1996 when he when gold in the Comrades. He was the first South African to reach the winning post! It was a real pleasure to work with and assist such a hugely talented, world-class athlete, who was also a real gentleman! I won’t forget the day it was his birthday. He called me to come and do his physio? I asked if it wasn’t his birthday? He said, it was but he had no time for birthdays. It was time for his regular five-hour run on a Sunday and I had to be there to do the massage immediately after his run. What an amazingly dedicated athlete! Congrats Donovan! Keep up the good work! I am very proud of you and your achievements, especially with your assistance and coaching of many other athletes who you used to mentor and even had them staying over at your house. Sam Flatela was such as such athlete who benefitted from you.

  • July 30, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Dear Publisher, Donovan Wright, he is the greatest ever!


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