From Smith to Vester, Sacos stars capable of beating the world

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THE public reaction in the Cape Argus by supporters of the South African Council on Sport’s (Sacos) athletes has sullied the name and history of a principled organisation.

These SMSes arrived after the windswept SA track and field championships in Stellenbosch, and questioned the merits of the current crop of athletes, compared to those from the Sacos fold.

Outstanding sprinters

Terrence Smith of Heathfield High School
Terrence Smith of Heathfield High School was arguably the most outstanding schoolboy sprinter of the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union.

Those of us who had competed for Sacos are aware of our outstanding sprinters and field eventers of the time.
Sacos was a vibrant and relevant organisation, especially from 1982-1992 and it played a leading role in isolating South Africa from international sport in the apartheid era.

There are only two names which stand out in our track and field athletics – Terrence Smith and Shaun Vester.

World class

Terrence Smith was the most outstanding sprinter in the 70s, was without peer and world class.

In 1985, Vester arrived on the scene and just about beat every opponent bar his perennial rivals Teano Patience and Craig Steyn. Vester, too, was world class. He was a natural.

John Wippenaar and Shaun Vester
John Wippenaar of Spes Bona High School and Shaun Vester of Grassdale High School were top echelon sprinters to have donned WPSSSU vest.

Terrence Smith was never really tested by his “opponents” other than by the stop watches. He clocked a personal best of 10,4 seconds in the 100m, and held the 100m and 200m records from under 14 through to under 17 with his boys under 17 100m records standing at 10,6 seconds and the 200m at 22.0 seconds. He never competed in the over 17 age group as by then he had matriculated from Heathfield High School. Smith went on to study and graduated in engineering at the University of Cape Town.

He clocked a personal best of 10,4 seconds in the 100m, and held the 100m and 200m records from under 14 through to under 17 with his boys under 17 100m records standing at 10,6 seconds and the 200m at 22.0 seconds. He never competed in the over 17 age group as by then he had matriculated from Heathfield High School. Smith went on to study and graduated in engineering at the University of Cape Town.

Borrowed spikes

Vester clocked 10,1 seconds in the 100m after borrowing an orange pair of high jump spikes from a team mate in the stands and supposedly not down to compete that day at UWC! Vester clocked 10,1 secs in the heats and 100m finals respectively.

Ideal conditions

Former ASA coach and ASA High Performance Coordinator Wilfred Daniels and a former South African Amateur Athletics Board (SAAAB) and WP coach (Sacos) was one of the top officials there (UWC) who had ensured the timekeepers had complied and that the wind gauge was in working order for ratification purposes.

Edmund Lewis and Nazeem Smith.
Edmund Lewis of Paarl Achilles and Nazeem Smith of Hewat proved to be top class sprinters over a long period of time.

The conditions were ideal, only from the point of view that there was no headwind. The day was slightly overcast.

Personal best

Vester’s personal best times were 10,1 secs (100m) and 20,8secs (200m) at his last South Africa Amateur Athletics Board Prestige meeting in the late 80s. He had had a number of failed races in the 90s, but by then Vester was past his best.

Vester never really graduated to senior level, his was a remarkable junior career.

Another athlete by the name of Nazeem Smith was a dominant sprinter together with an “ageing” Edmund Lewis of Paarl in the 1980s.

Complete sprinter

As senior sprinters, Smith and Lewis were by far the best sprinters in the 80s. Smith’s personal best, recorded at Green Point Track in 1986, is 10,2 seconds in the 100m. He did it again (10,2 secs) at the Vygieskraal Stadium where he erased Riedewaan Abdullah’s 100m record (10,3 secs) of two weeks! Smith was the complete sprinter of his time if not all time in Sacos (100m – 10,2, secs, 200m – 21,2 secs 400m- 47,1 secs).

Double SA champion

Smith’s 400m achievement was remarkable at the time as he had beaten Jantjie Marthinus (400m and 800m athlete) who had become a double SA 800m champion on the “other side” just prior to unity. Marthinus had also seen better days by the time he had gone over to compete with the establishment – “the whites” – as we called it in Sacos.

World stage

Suezette Arendse
Suezette Arendse of Hewat was the best long jumper-sprinter of the South African Amateur Athletics Board (SAAAB).

Beyond the names mentioned add sprinters Cecil Blows, Stafford Wilton, Kenny Roman, Herman Gibbs, John Wippenaar, Ismail Kolia, Selwyn Thomas, Ian Rutgers, Andy James, Mohammed Palekar and George van der Burg who would not have shamed themselves on the world stage.

‘International competitors’

Ingrid Arendse, Gillian Kay, Audrey Louw, Suzette Arendse, Odessa Krause, Sandra Petersen, the Mulligan twins, Liesl and Tanya, Sharon Hanslo, Sharon Alexander, Shahieda Majiet are some of the names who come to mind as probable international competitors in the women’s sprints (100m and 200m).

Tania Brown

In the field events there were a number of athletes capable of competing in the international arena, most notably long jumpers, high jumpers and javelin throwers; Daniel Orange, Fred Grovers, Nariman Rylands, Tania Brown and Leigh-Ann Naidoo.

Where the Sacos athletes had been lacking were in the hurdles, steeplechase and hammer throw.

Proved themselves

Tania Brown
Tania Brown of Marian High School held the WPSSSU girls under 14- to girls under 17 high jump records with a best of 1,71m.

Some of the Sacos athletes who had gone on to prove themselves during unity are Jowaine Parrot (multiple Two Oceans medallist), Francine Scheepers (Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon) (now Farwa Mentoor), Donovan Wright (Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon gold medallist) John September (road runner), Martin Saayman (cross country and road runner) and Isaac Opperman.

Hennie Moses

There was a middle distance runner by the name of Hennie Moses (1982) of Ceres who had run 3 minutes 47,1 seconds in the 1500m all by himself (so far he was from his fellow “competitors”) that if he had competed with Johan Fourie, who averaged 3:35 in 1500m, Moses would not have been disgraced .

As it turns out a Sacos athlete – Johan Landsman – erased Johan Fourie’s 1500m record and it still stands 3:33,56.

Jowaine Parrott
Jowaine Parrott has won a Comrades gold medal and was a three times runner-up in the Two Oceans Marathon.

As it turns out a Sacos athlete – Johan Landsman – erased Johan Fourie’s 1500m record and it still stands 3:33,56.

Johan Landsman

Former Heathfield High (Sacos) 800m star Freddie Williams (800m and 1500m) achieved global success when he competed in an Olympics 800m for Canada in Barcelona in 1992.
Bearing in mind Williams’ achievements, two Sacos athletes after him -Christo Gouws and Theo Desmore broke his records with ease.
Desmore, a Trafalgar High middle distance runner was sheer class even better, dare I say it, than Alexander Sinton’s Leon Pietersen.

*Clement du Plessis is a former WP and SA sprinter. He wrote on Sacos athletics for more than a decade. (Cape Argus, March 28, 2008)

The newspaper article as it appeared in the Cape Argus on 28 March 2008.
The newspaper article as it appeared in the Cape Argus on 28 March 2008.

4 thoughts on “From Smith to Vester, Sacos stars capable of beating the world

  • December 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm
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    WOW! This is great that I can finally find something on the athletic days of the 1980s. I too ran WPSSSU 400m – nothing as awesome as the guys that were in the team with me in 1989. Shaun Vester (100 & 200), Adnaan Lakay (100 & 200), Pierre Abrahams (100 & 200), Owen MacHelm (3000 & 5000); Theo Desmore (800 & 1500), Mark Frank (800 & 1500), Shaun Abrahams (800 & 1500) and Graham Schaffers (High Jump). I can clearly remember the night at the Champ of Champs at the Athlone Stadium when I won the 400 metres and broke down in tears as that was a dream of mine to wear that blue and white stripe tracksuit throughout my high school career – my dream was achieved. If only we knew that democracy was around the corner.

    Reply
    • December 11, 2015 at 7:57 am
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      So many athletes wore that blue and white stripe tracksuit with great pride, and so many aspired to it. And this is the purpose of Athletics Clipboard: to acknowledge all the unsung sporting heroes who achieved so much during sports isolation, despite all the challenges they faced.

      Reply
  • August 25, 2015 at 10:43 pm
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    We sure had some amazing athletes! Great to be reminded of their achievements…despite all the adversity.

    Reply
    • September 2, 2015 at 8:35 am
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      Thanks, we agree!

      Reply

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