BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
SHE became buoyant when she spotted herself on an old photograph on Facebook’s Athletics Clipboard. This inspired Fouzia Mohammed-Roberts to tell her story of athletics and friendships.
“I’d seen an old photograph of a Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union’s (WPSSSU) athletics team and was thrilled at seeing myself in the photo after so many years,” says Fouzia, a former Steenberg High School field champion, and record holder.
The photo was part of the Cheryl October collection, a brilliant WPSSSU high jumper of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Fouzia was the SASSSA (South African Senior Schools Sports Association) girls under 15 discus record holder in 1993 – her specialty event.
She was a younger athlete on the same WP team of athletic stars Geraldine Pillay (sprints), Kashief Toefy (field events), Bronwyn Bock (sprints and high jump) twins Rafiq and Rashied Dirks (sprints), Mitz Isaacs (high jump), Leigh-Ann Naidoo (javelin) and many others.
Fouzia blossomed at Steenberg High School under coach Cedric van Wyk, an experienced athletics coach, and administrator at provincial and national level.
She arrived at Steenberg as a sprinter and ran into the talent of Geraldine Pillay of Macassar at the high schools’ meetings at the Athlone stadium. Not successful at the sprint event, her coach at Steenberg had other ideas and planted the field event seed in Fouzia who revolutionised her ability as an athlete in the discus and javelin events.
Cedric van Wyk
“Mr Van Wyk had a major influence in my life which followed through into my adulthood and made me the person I am today.
“He saw the potential in me when I was very young and groomed me until I made the WP team and later earned my SASSSA colours. Those were dreams that came true for me as an athlete. He believed in me and we felt that as athletes at that age, he made a huge impact on our self-esteem and confidence,” says Fouzia.
She had come off a good base though, having played sport at Muhamadeyah Primary School (1983-84) and at St Clements’s Primary school (1985-90).
“I was a sprinter in primary school and also played netball,” says Fouzia.
But her talent was revealed in high school when she came into her own in the discus, hockey, volleyball, and gymnastics.
She gained WP senior schools colours in gymnastics in addition to her WP and SASSSA colours in athletics.
“The athletics scene at the time was one of excitement and filled me with so much ecstasy. Even now when I talk about it and see the pictures of those days, I am taken back to the days when our educators and, especially, our coaches sacrificed so much for their students. Athletics meant the world to me when the community, as a whole, arrived in buses at the sports meetings to support their children and the athletes.”
In good hands
“We were in good hands. We had an awesome coach who pushed us to our limits. The training was always tough but we pushed through. We never gave up. We would not only train at school but at the Vygieskraal stadium or at a nearby field,” remembers Fouzia.
Under Van Wyk she made an immediate impact in the discus and was the SASSSA girls under 15 record holder with a distance of 29,68 metres – a feat she achieved at the Dal Josaphat Stadium, Paarl in 1993.
Fouzia also competed in the javelin event and admired the talent of javelin thrower Leigh-Ann Naidoo who competed in a higher age group.
Fouzia doesn’t follow local athletics, and only tunes in when the Olympics come around every four years.