BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
Main picture, from left: May Pinto, Carol Esau, Gawa Moyce and Bridget Ruiters standing at the back.
This is the second chapter of a two-part series about May Pinto, arguably the youngest captain of a Western Province Senior Schools’ Sport Union’s athletics team. (Read part one here).
THE SASSSA meeting in Paarl in 1979 had been a championship which included Boland and SASSSA champions O’Neil Simpson, Jantjie Marthinus, W Papier and Suezette Arendse. Natal had the top-notch sprinter Hassan Motala – a much spoken about athlete in the Cape.
There was enough talent to groom in 1979 for an international competition if South Africa had not been banned from the international arena because of its legislated racial policies between 1948-1994.
Shot put champion
For the record, May was the WPSSSU and SASSSA champion in 1979. She held the SASSSA girls’ under 14 shot put record of 8,32 metres.
May credits Shaun Henry for her athletic successes. Not only did Henry and May participate in athletics, but they were also excellent volleyball players. Both represented their school at volleyball with Henry gaining higher honours at WPSSSU and WP club level. They were members of the Hurricanes Volleyball Club.
“Without Shaun, I would not have made it, even though my parents were supportive of my athletics. He would push you to perform better. Ashley Swartz was another motivator. Shaun would be up early in the morning, fetch me and the two of us would travel by bus from Mitchell’s Plain via Hanover Park to Livingstone High School for our morning training sessions. In those days, you could travel with a javelin and shot put in the bus. He stayed across the field from me in Westridge, Mitchell’s Plain,” she reflects.
They also trained in the afternoons at school. Their first competition would be their inter-house meeting.
Champ of champs
Livingstone held the inter-house meetings at the William Herbert sports ground in Wynberg.
“All the pupils and athletes had walked from the school, down Rosmead Avenue, to the sports ground,” she says, adding that she and Shaun Henry were in green house (the other three houses were red, yellow and blue).
From the inter-house meeting, the successful athletes would progress to the inter-school athletic meeting, where they would qualify for the Champion of Champions meeting and eventually the inter-provincial meeting.
May, Henry, Bernard Adams and Gillian Kay had been in the schools’ provincial team from day one in 1979 through to 1982. Kay, a superb sprint talent, matriculated in 1981 aged 17, and was lost to athletics.
The three established athletes were joined by shot putter Benita Okkers and Arthur Fraser who ran the 800m and 1500m races respectively in 1980 when the SASSSA meeting was held at the Athlone Stadium.
Fraser, of course, is the former State Security Agency director general, effectively the former spy boss and a very powerful man in South African politics.
“Arthur’s mother (also named Cynthia) and my father (Mervyn Pinto) are brother and sister,” explains Pinto.
Pinto had a good year in 1982, although, she insists 1979 was her best year when she first qualified for the WPSSSU team as a 13-year-old.
She featured in club athletics as the junior ladies’ shot champion at the South African Amateur Athletic Board’s Track and Field meeting in Paarl in 1982 – the venue where her national athletics career started in 1979.
She was placed second behind teammate Bridget Ruiters in the javelin event.
At the time she was a member of the Vikings Amateur Athletic Club based in Hanover Park headed by Allan O’Ryan, who had to run the club on a shoe-string budget.
“Allan recruited us to Vikings,” she says, meaning the WP schools’ athletes Victor Snyders, Amanda Forbay, Peter Smith, Graham Wicomb, Glenda Patience (the sister of WP schools and clubs’ sprinter Teano Patience), Deon Porthen, Nathan and Jonathan de Kock.
“We trained in Mitchell’s Plain where most of us stayed and Victor led the training. We had been four shot putters training together at the time,” referring to herself, Henry, Okkers and Adams.
She continued with the sport in 1983.
She stopped athletics with the birth of Ryan Pinto.