PICKING up the shot for the first time at high school, Gawa Moyce went on to become a household name in athletics and the senior champion in the shot put event.
She first had a crack at the sport in Std 6 (Grade 8) and never looked back.
“I got to high school in 1979. One day, all the athletes were standing around on the field. I got a chance to throw the shot and beat the group I was in,” says Moyce, who is a devout Muslim.
She attended the Talfalah Primary and Silverstream High schools in Manenberg.
Though she did not participate in any athletics at primary school level, she soon discovered her talent at high school.
“Mr Neil Carelse, a teacher at Silverstream, was the one who spotted me and coached me from the beginning of my athletics career at high school,” Moyce recalls.
Trip to Johannesburg
On one of her trips to a South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) championship, Moyce had to travel with the rest of the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union’s (WPSSSU) team to Johannesburg but she had a problem.
“Teenage girls were not allowed, by Muslim faith, to travel alone. They had to have adult supervision, so Michelle Walker, a young teacher at Bridgetown High School and a motherly-figure, spoke and assured my parents that it would be okay for me to travel to Johannesburg as she was going to look after me,” explains Moyce.
Moyce travelled to Johannesburg.
Walker (whose married surname later was Manuel) was for many years a chaperone and manager of the WP teams. She was also an efficient administrator with the Western Province Amateur Athletics Union.
Despite being part of the WPSSSU team throughout her high school career, Moyce was never given the opportunity to the captain the side.
She never ever captained the senior team or the Western Province Amateur Athletics Union team either. Moyce was the vice-captain of the WPAAU team in 1988.
“I was also the vice-captain of the South African Teachers Training Colleges (SATTCSA) athletics team in 1986,” she recalls.
Nazeem Smith was the captain.
She found the competition easy and comfortable at high school level.
“At high school, I would win year in and year out. It was only when I got to the clubs in 1982 that I faced competition,” she says.
Moyce, a member of the Hanover Park-based Vikings Amateur Athletics Club, had to face Mildred Olivier of Eastern Province, a tough opponent in the shot in Paarl in 1982.
“Mildred was much bigger than me and she could heave the shot,” recalls Moyce of her first-time experience against the champion and record-holder of the shot put – Olivier set the record of 14,64m in Durban in 1983.
For three years, Moyce had to play second fiddle to the EP star Olivier.
It was ironic then that in 1985 on the home ground of Olivier, the Gelvandale Track, Moyce picked up her first senior title.
“I was ecstatic at winning my first senior title although Mildred did not participate at the SAAAB champs in PE (Port Elizabeth), says Moyce.
Moyce bagged a double in PE by winning the senior ladies discus event.
Her nemesis in this event was the Western Province record-holder Celeste Kallis of Grassy Park whom she eventually put to bed.
While still a student teacher at Hewat Training College, Moyce repeated her achievements of 1985 a year later and sealed her remarkable record as a field athlete and a place among champions.
Moyce formed part of select group of athletes at Hewat Training College which included Bernard Adams, Naziem Moos, Nazeem Smith, Calvin de Kock, Andrew September, Clement du Plessis, Edward Mulder and Keith Meyer.
At the 1986 Boland Track and Field Championships, the Hewat team dominated the championships.
A morning newspaper headline read: “Hewat raid Boland champs”.
She also won the shot put and discus events at the Western Province Colleges meeting in 1987 but was disappointed in her parents.
“My parents had never come to support or watch me compete in athletics. In 1987 both parents decided to come to the colleges’ meeting at the Vygieskraal Stadium, but left again before I even won and broke the colleges’ records,” says a disappointed Moyce.
She was the holder of the shot put (12,06m) and the discus (36,68m) records at college level – her college record being better than that of her SAAAB discus record of 36,64m.
“At club level, while competing for Hewat, Cedric van Wyk assisted and coached me in the discus and javelin event,” says Moyce.
Moyce tells a funny story of how she opted for a softball tournament at City Park over a SAAAB championships in Durban in 1987.
Having been exposed to so many athletics competitions at club and college level, Moyce wanted to participate in her other love, softball.
At the time of the SAAAB champs in 1987, the Western Province Teachers Training Colleges Sports Union held a summer sports tournament made up of softball, baseball and cricket at the Hewat sports grounds and City Park Stadium in Crawford, Cape Town.
“I was supposed to fly up to Durban and picked up at the airport. Cedric and the rest of the management wanted to suspend me from athletics, but this did not happen,” says an amusing Moyce.
She was selected to the WP Colleges softball team that year.
Of course, she knew SAAAB or WP could not suspend her as schools and colleges had taken representative preference over clubs.
Moyce was also a top-class netball player since being a teenager with the Blackheath Netball Club. She was also a WPSSSU netball umpire.
Last Sacos Games
By 1988, Moyce was selected for the South African Council on Sport’s athletics team at the last Sacos Games in Cape Town.
The team was captained by Jantjie Marthinus and Suezette Arendse of Western Province.
She retired from athletics in 1988.
Many years later, Moyce had the opportunity to coach her former high school coach Neil Carelse in preparation for the Transplant Games in Sydney, Australia in 2014.
“It was an honour and privilege to coach my former coach. In a sense, life had come full circle in athletics,” says a contented Moyce.