THERE is nothing better to savour than a rivalry between two or even three competitors.
In the history books, there’s the notable one between Brezhnev and Nixon, the leaders of the two superpowers during the Cold War.
In sport, there are quite a few: Jansher Khan/Jahangir Khan, McEnroe/Borg, Lewis/Johnson, Ali/Frazier, Liverpool/Man U and so on.
If you were not lucky enough to see some of the best-known Cape Town sprint rivalries in the 1960s and 1970s, you most probably would have heard about it from your older siblings or older folks.
The image is vivid, like the Cecil Blows/Kenny Roman rivalry in the 1960s at Hewat, Bellville or Green Point Track. They pitched and dashed in no time at all.
Imagine the image of Roman against Paul Nash, or Blows against Judge Jefferys in the 100 yards.
It is a conversation to no end, peppered with questions: “where”, “what” and “how fast”?
Of all the rivalries at senior sprint level, there seemed to have been arguably only one rivalry gracing the grass track of Athlone Stadium in Cape Town during the peak period of track and field athletics in the mid-1970s to have captured the imagination.
The rivalry fell, in part, to the tall Mohammed Hanief Paleker. Little did Athletics Clipboard realise that Hanief Paleker is actually Mohammed Paleker – the speedster from Bellies. “Everyone in my family circle knows me as Hanief Paleker,” says the Belgravia High School (Bellies) athlete.
And yes folks, he was another Spartans sprint champion to walk off with sports awards, as can be seen below.
The rivalry you may wonder comprised of whom? Well, the Eastern Cape speed merchant Gareth McLean (a student teacher at Hewat Training College in Crawford, Cape Town) was one, he of the family of famous Eastern Cape sprinters. The other sprinter was the combustible Andy James, capable of setting any race alight – 100m, 200m and 400m.
James, too, was from Bellies, Spartans and Hewat.
Add the late Ismail Collier, originally from Natal, who had moved down to the Cape, George Montanus and Allan O’Ryan to the threesome, and you get the image of just how competitive these races would have been, the winner changing hands all the time.
Their sprint races had everything: power, grace, speed, technique, and controversy – just ask Gareth McLean who claimed he had been misplaced in a sprint race at Athlone Stadium (he was second instead of first).
And when conditions were good, they would dip under 11 seconds in the 100m and under 22 seconds in the 200m. It was quite an achievement, given the suspect, if not, atrocious athletics tracks of grass, cinder and gravel, and the world sprint times at the time.
The Paleker era is still a talked about period of sprinting.
You might have something to say about it . . . – Written by Clement du Plessis