Martin Saayman – champion athlete, coach and mentor

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BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

This is the first chapter of a two-part series about former versatile champion athlete Martin Saayman of Trafalgar and the Bellville Teachers’ College.

MARTIN Saayman is widely remembered by his charges as an exceptional coach at school and club level. But few of them would know that he is a former South African Amateur Athletic Board’s 10km road race champion who coached a young Jeromy Andreas of Eerste River to become the South African 10km senior champion in 2013 on debut. (For the record, Andreas won the race in Durban in a time of 29 minutes and 3 seconds.)

Jeromy Andreas races round the bend on the track at the University of the Western Cape.

This achievement by Andreas was a highlight in Saayman’s coaching career. Andreas, who was the SA junior champion in 2010, came to Durban wanting to run the senior 10km race in 28 minutes. He has a personal best over the distance of 29:02 – a time he recorded at a race in George in 2012.

Opportunity

Saayman’s achievement with Andreas again points to the fact that athletes and coaches, if given the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, are able to prove themselves at the highest level.

Athletics Clipboard’s Facebook page is complete with public adulation for Saayman’s contribution to the sport. His middle distance and cross-country athletes at St Andrews High School and the University of the Western Cape are especially appreciative of his high-level coaching, on and off the race track:

Anlevine Everts writes, “Yoh, he trained me that I vomited and cried at the same time but that made me the record holder in the 90s.”

Calvino Stanley Ludick says “I learned a lot from him. Coach Saayman, you were more than athletics, you also taught me about life in general.”

Edward Salies comments, “I remember Martin Saayman as my opponent, I could never beat him, he was the better athlete.”

Martin Saayman as a coach at St Andrews High School.

Judy Simons chipped in, “My coach. Good coach. He trained us hard. Anlevine Everts and I reached Western Province [the WP team].”

Praise

Even Owen Machelm, a class athlete in his own right, heaped praised on Saayman.

Saayman started his athletics career at Gerrit du Plessis Secondary School in Riversdal where he showed the runners in his age group a clean pair of heels in the South Western Districts, better known as South Cape in the early 1980s.

He represented South Cape at the South African Senior Schools Sports Association for the first time when the SASSSA championships were held at the Athlone stadium in 1982. Saayman, the South Cape middle distance champion in the 800m and 1500m, was up against perennial rivals Christo Petersen, Patty Francis and Booi Visser of Boland, and Graham Wicomb of Western Province (WP) in the 800m and 1500m at both SA schools’ and clubs’ level.

Cross country

Martin Saayman’s first SA schools championships was at the Athlone stadium in 1982. On the left, in the colours of Boland, is the dynamo Patty Francis, number 547 is Brian Sass. Behind the EP runner numbered 133 is Martin Saayman and Graham Wicomb.

Saayman’s forte was not so much middle-distance racing even though he was good enough to represent his province at school (South Cape) and club (WP) levels. He even managed to win the boys open 1500m at the SASSSA championships in Port Elizabeth in 1984.

However, his real strength was cross country and, more specifically, road running where he won with monotonous regularity.  At one stage in his career, he was the WP, Boland and SA cross-country champion in the same season. (More about this in Part 2 next week.)

 

 

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