BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
HASSAN Motala was an icon between the years 1977 and 1981, the years he remained unbeaten in the blue ribbon event – the 100 metres.
As far as it is known no other athlete has this distinction in the 100m.
Terrence Smith of Heathfield High School (WPSSSU) was unbeaten in both the 100m and 200m at high school level between the ages 14-17 – up until the year he matriculated in 1973. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to compete in the boys’ open section as he was already a student at the University of Cape Town in 1974.
Windsor High’s star athlete from Ladysmith, Natal, Motala was the athlete who would break Smith’s under 14 100m SA schools record (1970) of 11, 5 seconds at the King’s Park Stadium in 1977. Motala improved the record to 11,3 seconds. He also smashed WP’s Paul Brandt’s 200m of record of 23,9 seconds set in 1975, clocking 23,5 seconds. His achievements were big news in the Durban papers with one paper tipping him to be a future Olympic star. What the paper probably meant was that Motala was Olympic material. Even then the Olympics was a pipe dream in the 1970s during the years of sporting isolation (1970s-1991).
Says coach Lux Gordhan: “It was at that time when I started coaching him in 1977. I got him a pair of spikes and starting blocks. We worked hard on his starts, where he was slow. But once he accelerated, he was unstoppable. I worked and honed his talent from a generic athletics coaching programme.”
Gordhan relays how he met the young Motala, a devout Muslim.
“I used to pass him almost daily on my way to school and I cannot forget his big grin with flashy teeth. “
Hassen was in primary school at that time. He was inspired firstly by the local stars from the high school and then by Gordhan’s own national champions and other athletics icons whom he had invited to run in an exhibition relay in Ladysmith. Amongst them were Ismail Collier, G. T.(Ravi) Moodley, Everard Brooks (lives in Bridgetown, Barbados), Jock Maduray, and Percy Chetty.
Gordhan was a teacher and an athletics coach at Windsor High School. He was appointed at Windsor High School in 1972 in his first year of teaching, about 270 km from Durban, his hometown.
A complete stranger to the town, in just about two months, he coached his school athletes to their first-ever victory of about 50 points at the Northern Natal High Schools Championships.
Down in the Cape, he would grab the attention of the Western Province athletics enthusiasts who always referred to him as Hassan Motala when spoken about in a revered manner.
Wilton Pick, who competed as S Pick for Athlone High School in 1977, was Motala’s main rival at the SASSSA athletics meeting.
Pick held the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union’s boys under 14 200m record with a time of 23,9 seconds. Pick was the big talking point in schoolboy athletics in the late 1970s at schools and evening club meetings at the Athlone stadium. It was Pick, Mark Hector (Belgravia), Tauriq Achmat (Alexander Sinton) and Jonathan Williams (Belgravia). Those were some of the names who had made up some of the competition for Pick at WPSSSU and SASSSA level. Achmat would become Pick’s main rival in the Cape and later Motala’s at SASSSA level.
Motala, Pick and Achmat dished it up at SASSSA level. The three exhibited beautiful technique exemplary of quality sprinting at schoolboy level. Achmat was more of a stylist, yet very effective and quick over the 200m – the distance he would beat both Pick and Motala.
The SASSSA meeting on the Gelvandale Track in Port Elizabeth in 1978 saw Motala chalk up his second SASSSA 100m title as a boy under 15 athlete.
The Dal Josaphat Stadium, with its clay track in Paarl in 1979, was the venue of Motala’s third triumph in the 100m (boys under 16), beating Achmat to the post in 11, 4 seconds. Pick was third. Achmat would win the 200m in emphatic style, clocking 22,5 seconds with Motala second and Pick third. Three seasons of absorbing sprinting would come to an end with Pick and Achmat not being able to smoke the pipe in the boys under 17 age group.
Motala competed against a new set of WPSSSU sprinters at the SASSSA meeting in Cape Town in 1980.
The WP winners at the Champion of Champions at the Athlone Stadium were S Cosian (100m, FL) and C Henry (200m, BR). Mark Hector of Belgravia High was second in the 100m and a T Smith of Grassy Park was second in the 200m.
Jonathan Williams, though, of Belgravia High (from the Heatherdale Home in Veld Road) was selected after trials at the Hewat Training College which included Achmat who wasn’t successful after given another chance (injured at the champs).
Even with this available talent, Motala made short work of the WPSSSU sprinters at the SASSSA meeting at the Athlone Stadium in 1980.
The name Motala was not only on everybody‘s lips, but his name was also ringing in the ears of any would-be WPSSSU sprinter in the boys’ open section. The 1981 SASSSA meeting would be held at Newlands, Johannesburg.
The WPSSSU contingent was made up of Vincent Malambo of Crestway High School and Isaac Arendse of Parkwood. Waiting in the wings was Eastern Province’s top talent Nazeem Davids.
Bennet Bailey of WP was the long jumper.
Five straight wins
Motala, experienced enough by now with four straight wins in the 100m at SASSSA level needed one more victory in the 100m to complete his distinguished record in the 100m at SASSSA level – five straight wins in the 100m from boys under 14 to boys open (over 17).
He did so brilliantly by holding off the fast-finishing Davids in the 100m.
The WP sprinters did not make it to the podium. Only Bailey managed a diploma in the long jump behind EP’s Vernon Bergins and H Daniels of Boland.
Davids would go on to win the 200m with Motala third. The 200m gave Motala, a stocky athlete, problems, but over the 100m he was unstoppable. The only time Motala won the 200m at SASSSA level was in the boys under 14 age group.
Motala was born in Ladysmith Natal (now Kwazulu-Natal) in 1963.
He is deeply indebted to many persons who helped him to implement the coaching programme, managed, and motivated him to new heights in athletics.
Hassan’s humbleness and dedication to athletics endeared him to all.
The people he would like to thank, in particular, are: Jimmy Ramnath, his primary school sports coach, Mr Rajen Magan, his High school sports coach, Mr Jerry Oosthuizen, educator Mr Majid Khan, Mr Ramachandra Reddy, an inspirational educator, and sports administrator, and the late Mr Willem Heeckroodt, inspector of schools.
He is always grateful to his parents for their support and efforts.