Plucky Dianne Carelse powers her way to the top

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DIANNE CARELSE (Morgan) was one of the top athletes of her generation in 1982.

Although her season got off to a mixed start in January when the Western Province Senior Schools, the WP clubs, Boland and the WP Colleges held an athletics meeting on the brand new tartan track at the Vygieskraal Stadium, she ended the season with the schools and club sprint titles as a junior ladies’ athlete.

On the day in January, Carelse won the senior ladies 100m in 12,6 seconds followed by Shaheeda Majiet and the junior WP senior schools’ athlete Amanda Forbay.  In the 200m, the colleges’ Ronelle Juries of Hewat won the 200m in 26,5 seconds followed by Majiet, Carelse and Forbay.

In another memorable race that season (April), Carelse (WPAAU) and Suezette Arendse (WPAAU) and Wynoma Europa locked horns in the ladies 100m with Arendse winning. Carelse won the 200m with Europa second and the evergreen Sharon Siljeur third. Arendse did not run the 200m.

Dianne Carelse
Dianne Carelse, centre, caught up with Suezette Arendse, left, and Shaheeda Majiet to win the senior ladies 100m at the Vygieskraal Stadium.

In 1982, Carelse was the South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) girls open champion as well as the South African Amateur Athletics Board (SAAAB) junior ladies sprint champion. At the latter meeting, she equalled the 100m record of 12,4 seconds in Paarl and anchored the junior ladies to a new SAAAB relay record.

In the same year, Carelse had another milestone to cherish: as a junior, she had beaten champion sprinter Suezette Arendse by the closest of margins in the senior ladies 100m race at the Vygieskraal Stadium. It was an upset victory!

In 1983, though, the results of Carelse started to decline. Shaheeda Majiet, Suezette Arendse and Joy Adams were beginning to beat her too often, and she would never be the same again.

Carelse’s focus had changed by then: she was a full-time university student and there was little time for training. Her love for the sport, however, never waned, and in later years, she would make her mark in sports administration and coaching.

Primary school years

Carelse’s athletics career started at St Raphael’s Primary School in Athlone, Cape Town.

Dianne Carelse
Dianne Carelse.

Her sprinting prowess was noticed when she was only eight years old. She qualified for the Western Province team as an under 9 athlete at the South African Primary Schools Sports Association’s Track and Field meeting in Port Elizabeth in 1973.

“Our school fell under the Athlone District School Sports Union,” Carelse recalls. “I also competed as a long jumper.”

Carelse’s biggest influence, as a primary school’s athlete, came from her sister Linda who was a teacher at the school.

“Linda was also an athlete in her day and had gone on to become the number one badminton player (Alpha and Sinton) in South Africa for many years. She was my first coach and mentor,” Carelse says proudly.

The young Carelse regularly represented Athlone District at the annual inter-district primary school athletics meeting. However, she was only able to crack the next level (Western Province) again in high school.

Champ of Champs

Carelse continued her schooling at Alexander Sinton High School, arguably the top athletics school in the Cape.

Dianne Carelse
Dianne Carelse at Athlone Stadium.

“My primary school coach Mr Keith Peters informed Sinton about me. So on my first day at Sinton, I was approached by Mr Julian Lenders, the Physical Education master, to join in the athletics practices at school,” she says.

Carelse’s first year as a high school athlete did not go off well in 1978. She won the inter-house 100m, but lost the 200m badly to a top talent, but not a hardworking athlete, Allyson Simons.  Zeenat Rajie another talent was second. Carelse was third.

By then, her brother-in-law Clarence Manuel (himself an athlete at Alexander Sinton during the early 1970s) started to coach her.

“In 1978, when I was in Std 6 [grade 8], I made it to the Champion of Champions [where the cream of the high school athletes compete] but unfortunately the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union’s team had already been chosen before the Champs,” says Carelse.

The 1978 Western Province team had been picked early because of time constraints and the political and violent consequences of the 1976 riots in South Africa. The Western Cape, particularly Athlone and the surrounding schools, was deeply affected.

In fact, it was the 1976 riots that interrupted Sinton’s success as a constant A-Section winner.

Club athletics

In her first three years at Sinton (1978-1980), Carelse wasn’t hitting her straps – no longer could she run on talent alone. She needed an extra gear and that came in the form of club athletics.

 “Mr Herman Abrahams, a teacher at Sinton, encouraged me to join the Spartans Amateur Athletics Club when I was in Std 8 [grade 10],” Carelse recalls.

Robin April
Robin April.

The year turned out to be the high point in her career under Robin April’s guidance.

She credits April for her successful transition to the next level: “Mr Robin April would drill us during training; Shaheeda Majiet and myself. Sometimes I had to train morning and night, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

April, Abrahams, Mervyn Davids and one other were the founders of Spartans – a club that sports a rich history of athletics excellence.

Carelse remembers a gruelling training regimen when she attended an athletics meeting in Worcester.

“One day in Worcester, Robin let me run all the races; 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. He told me it was training. I will never forget that day!”

Missed out on selection

But Robin April wasn’t the only trainer she had at Spartans. She migrated towards Willie Davids, the club coach, who played a pivotal role in moulding the athletes into top class athletes.

Davids had a knack and chemistry with his young charges. He had a fine crop of athletes, including Sharon Reynolds, Kevin Africa, Shaheeda Majiet, Emeraan Ismail, Leon Pietersen and many others.

Dianne Carelse
Shaheeda Majiet (lane 2), Dianne Carelse (3) and Suezette Arendse (5) at the start of the senior ladies 100m at the Vygieskraal Stadium.

As a first-year under 17 athlete in Std 8 (1980), Carelse missed out on a place in the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU) track team.

Gillian Kay of Livingstone High School and E Daniels of Zeekoevlei High School ruled the roost. Kay won the girls under 17 100m and 200m at SASSSA level at the Athlone Stadium in 1980. Daniels came third (100m and second (200m).

Due to her intensive training in 1981, she was selected to the WPSSSU track team alongside Kay in the girls under 17 age group. It was the last year Kay would compete as an athlete as she had matriculated by then. (Kay started her schooling a year earlier than the majority of pupils.)

It was the last year Kay would compete as an athlete as she had matriculated by then. (Kay started her schooling a year earlier than the majority of pupils.)

“My first pair of spikes was bought for me by our school’s music teacher Brian Adonis,” Carelse recalls fondly.

Unbelievable season

Carelse had an unbelievable season in 1982 under coach Davids.

She won her races at the Champion of Champions meeting at Athlone Stadium and in the process helped her school to win the Champ of Champs – a milestone last reached in the early 1970s.

Dianne Carelse
Dianne Carelse wins the 100m at the Champion of Champions at the Athlone Stadium in 1982.

By virtue of her performances, she was in the province team for the second year running.

She was crowned the South African Senior Schools Sports Association’s (SASSSA) girls open 100m and 200m sprint champion at a meeting held at the Athlone Stadium in 1982.

“I was also the WPSSSU captain alongside Andre Alexander,” says Carelse.

(Alexander was the real deal as a sprinter. Of all the athletes that she had ever seen in action, Carelse picks him as the athlete whom she “most admired”.)

At the South African Amateur Athletics Board (SAAAB) meeting at the Dal Josofat in Paarl in 1982, Carelse swept the boards – winning the junior ladies 100m and equalling the record of 12,4 seconds, the 200m and anchoring the 4X100m relay team to a new SAAAB record.

At the same event, Carelse’s training buddy Shaheeda Majiet was part of the relay team. Majiet was to become a champion and record holder in 1985.

A heart for teaching and sports administration

Dianne Carelse in 1982.
Dianne Carelse in 1982.

In 1983, Carelse started her tertiary studies at the University of the Western Cape – this was also the year she ended her athletics career as her studies required her full attention.

Carelse graduated with an honours degree in Physical Education and is currently the principal of Silikamva High School in Hout Bay.

After her studies, Carelse migrated to hockey, volleyball and softball and eventually moved into the coaching of teams and the administration of sport. She is currently the chairperson of the Avendale softball club, the chair of the Western Cape school softball, and is still involved in athletics where she is the chief place judge.

Carelse is very passionate about involving school kids in sport: “I’ve always felt responsible from the time I started teaching that I must share my school sport experience with the students and get them involved in sport. In other words, provide opportunities for them,” Carelse concludes.

3 thoughts on “Plucky Dianne Carelse powers her way to the top

  • January 22, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Nice piece on Dianne Carelse. Perhaps, you could also try to focus on some other notable athletes including that demon of speed and power Naomi Sylvester Davids, a dual sportswoman sprinter and softball star, Sharon Alexander of Oaklands High School was no slouch either and Audrey Louw of Alexander Sinton High School was very good.

    • January 22, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      Anonymous, please do take your time and peruse the facebook page and website by the same name to find these athletics stars of yesteryear.

  • January 25, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Hi. Leon Rossouw here. I had the experience of running (against Shaun Vester in the 200m, and Clint Cloete and Teano Patience in the 400m) and high jump. I got my provincial colours at my first attempt in 400m in 1987 at both club (Spartans) and school level (Cathkin High). I also ran 200m and did high jump. These were my happy, fun and memorable years in athletics. Love you guys!


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