MARK van Soest of Mitchell’s Plain was a genuine talent from day one when he set foot on an athletics track.
He was one of those athletes who had gone through the transition period from SASSSA athletics to (WECASSU) USASSSA athletics.
In the picture, we see a barefooted Van Soest competing in the boys under 7 80m race at the Western Province Primary Schools Sports Board’s (Sacos affiliate) annual inter-union competition at the University of the Western Cape’s Athletics Stadium in April 1989.
He has come through the athletics ranks from primary school through to high school in spectacular fashion.
Initially shining in the short sprints, he would make his mark in the 400m.
As a 17-year-old schoolboy, he clocked an electronic time of 46, 66 seconds in the 400m at the Pilditch Stadium in March 1999. In any language and in any country this is quick!
At the Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 1999, Van Soest finished third in 47,19, behind Gluadel Garzon of Cuba (47 seconds flat) and team mate William Mandla Nkosi in 46,84.
Well-known athletes such as Veronica Campbell of Jamaica (sprints), Yelena Isinbayeva (pole vault) and Anna Chicherova (high jump) of Russia competed at the same Youth Championships in 1999.
Van Soest was selected to the South African team to compete at the Pacific Games for school athletes in Sydney in April 2000, the year the Olympics were held in Sydney, Australia.