BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
This is the first chapter of a two-part series about former star athlete and cricketer Eugene Moleon.
HE had the muscular strength of cricketer Curtly Ambrose and athlete Usain Bolt – the two sports in which Eugene Moleon of Garlandale High School excelled.
“We were raw in nature,” remarked the well over six-foot sportsman, referring to the majority of athletes of his time.
Sprint-long jump champion
He was no slouch in volleyball either, but it was athletics that propelled him into the spotlight as a sprint-long jump champion.
The appetite for these events grew on Moleon as a seven-year-old when he saw Carl Lewis on their colour TV screen flying through the air.
His chance to emulate Lewis came at Garlandale when he leaped 7,04m in the long-jump to eclipse the great Shaun Vester’s mark of 6,82m set in 1985.
He had already come through the ranks as an under 14-year-old sprinter and was reasonably well known, but it was this leap in 1993, as a growing 15-year-old, which set up his athletics career.
The following year, he went after the record of another great athlete in Terrence Smith (Heathfield). Smith’s Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union’s boys under 17 200m record of 22 seconds flat stood since 1973. Moleon shaded the record by the smallest of margins, clocking 21,91 seconds. He cleared 7,19m on the same day.
He made athletics look easy yet he was up against tough opposition.
High school athletics was a tough learning curve for Moleon who had Morne Witbooi of Scottsville High School, Donovan Jansen of Fairmount High School and Safwaan Simons of Mount View High School as rivals. Witbooi held the boys under 15 100m record of 11,2 seconds and Simons had removed Herman Gibbs’ (Hewat) 200m record of 21,8 seconds by clocking 21,72 seconds.
Jansen had moved up to the 400m where he held the boys under 17 400m record of 50,72 seconds. He had removed the record of 51,3 seconds set by Leon Pietersen of Alexander Sinton in 1980.
Those are some of the stats that frame Moleon’s remarkable talent.
Competing internationally was the Achilles Heel of South African athletics which led to only a handful of senior schools’ athletes of the early 1990s competing internationally and here the name of Geraldine Pillay of Zandvliet High School springs to mind.
Group Areas Act of 1950
Moleon was a pupil at Parkfields Primary School in Hanover Park. Many of the District Six evictees were forced to live in Hanover Park and Heideveld because of the draconian and racist Group Areas Act. Others moved to Manenberg and the last of the evicted to Mitchell’s Plain.
(Black people were restricted to homelands and coloured people were forcibly removed from whites in the same area due to the newly elected National Party in 1948 and its policies of segregation [apartheid] such as the Group Areas Act of 1950)
“At Parkfields Primary, Mr Stephens our physical education teacher encouraged me to participate in athletics. He would also encourage me to take part in as many sporting codes as I could. At Garlandale, Mr Allan Pather and Mr Keith Powell helped me a great deal. They kept me grounded and focused on my goals,” recalls Moleon.
In the words of Moleon, ‘we were raw’. We just ran and competed.
Natural physical attributes
Moleon’s natural physical attributes no doubt placed him much higher than the rest of the athletes in his age group and if one places his achievements next to Vester and Terrence Smith then it says a lot about a sportsman who should have strutted the global stage.
Moleon didn’t do any scientific training, didn’t follow a particular diet, he never saw the inside of a gymnasium, and had no sponsor or any further incentives. Standard fare for Sacos-based athletes.
“Most of the time I would train on my own. If there was a small ‘level’ piece of grass I would be busy working on starts or doing short sprints. I loved running steps, so I did that at my old school and did plenty of those. I even designed my own bend for the 200m race to work on my bend running. If I wanted to do some distance work, I would run down Vanguard Drive,” he says.
His parents Samuel and Annetta Moleon always attended his performances on sporting occasions, particularly athletics.
“My mum and dad, they watched every athletics meeting I took part in, except for the school sectional meets. My mum always told me to run against the clock and not the people next to you. Simple,” he says.
(The public weren’t allowed at sectional athletics meetings only at the champion of champions which was held on a Saturday)
- Next week, Moleon takes us on a cricketing tour and some more athletics.