BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
THIS is the second chapter of a three-part series about former star athlete Johan Landsman.
Read part one here How racial politics barred SA athletes from the international spotlight
DESPITE South Africa having been readmitted to the international sporting world in 1991, Landsman believes the youngsters are “not getting the opportunity or they are not grabbing the opportunity” to be the best in their athletics event of choice.
Landsman says that the greater Cape Town area has unbelievable talent in athletics and in other areas of arts and cultures.
“Go to the high schools and go and see the raw talent there, not just in athletics; arts and culture too. Go to the dance clubs and see the performances of the singers and dancers. It’s natural among the people there,” he says.
“I read a book titled Talent Is Not Enough in which it details hard work and structure. To my mind, the athletes at the schools are not disciplined enough to attain their goals. Too many of them get involved with the wrong friends and the highly talented ones, some of them, go clubbing and expect to perform at their best the next day. And then there are those athletes who are simply uncoachable; athletes who don’t listen and believe in their coaches. Talent alone is not good enough,” he emphasised.
He said talent was “only the starting point, talent is the foundation”. He says then the hard work starts by putting structures in place.
Landsman said he was uncertain when he first joined the ranks of the SAAAU in 1989.
He didn’t know whether he had enough talent to compete under the SAAAU, or whether he had enough talent to be an international athlete.
“When I joined Maties I wasn’t even in the top 10 at the club in the middle distance competition.”
And while running under SAAAB he never featured at the SA Championships.
He made a start to athletics in 1984 while at the University of the Western Cape, but only qualified for the Western Province track team in 1987 when the championships were held at the University of Durban-Westville. However, he had qualified for the WP cross-country team earlier.
“I was a complete failure at the SA’s, people thought that I would beat Jantjie [Marthinus]. I never medalled in the 800m, so people thought that I would win the 1500m and, I didn’t medal in the 1500m either,” he says.
Although he believed that he had trained fairly hard at the time, his training efforts were not good enough to compete with the best.
He had trained with his friend Jurie Fieties who was also a member of the Belhar-based Titans Amateur Athletics Club.
“We trained on a loop where Cape Gate stands today [a shopping mall]. There was a farm. We had to cross the N1 from Kraaifontein to get to the farm. There was a long hill which we used to build up strength.
By the time we got to the hill we had already run 32 minutes, and then we had to get stuck into the hill. We had no formal training. That was our training. We didn’t know about fartlek at the time [Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training]. We didn’t do morning jogs. We didn’t use supplements, didn’t do gym work, and I can’t even remember whether we did push-ups!” he says.
At the time Titans had in its ranks Landsman, Fieties, Isaac Opperman, Rod van der Heyde, Danny Norman, David Leonard, Dogan Wilton, Gary Small, Colin Jeftha, Meris Koks and Sydney Silver as their prominent road runners.
“Titans was one of the best clubs in the country with Colin Jeftha at the helm,” he says.
Jeftha lives with his wife Yolanda and family in Sydney, Australia. Yolanda also played a pivotal role in the administration and the capturing of events, as a photographer, at the club and at provincial level.
Says Colin, “When Fieties and Landsman came to UWC we approached them to join us instead of UWC. At the time we were building a culture of road runners in particular. We had already poached Opperman and others were on our radar. My philosophy as coach (in my 20’s) was less of training with them but more in terms of knowing their circumstances and psyche.”
Titans played a big role in road running in the fold of the Sacos-affiliated Western Province Amateur Athletics Union, organising a number of road races. This included the SAAAB Marathon Championships in Cape Town in September 1985 in the face of political upheaval and general civil unrest.
“We also had the Titans Time Trial which listed the results in the paper – a first for our sport. Landsman’s first race for us was the Worcester Elsie’s River relay in 1985. We threw him into it at Klapmuts,” says Colin.
Colin remembers Landsman running his first 5km time trial at Titans to the date and time (29 May 1985), in 17 minutes and 23 seconds behind Sidney Silver in 16:19.
“Even the sprinters like the late Godfrey Fitz and Joe Warries ran the time trial. Fitzy ran a sub-20 minute time trial,” says Colin.
Through Colin’s efforts, Titans was the first club who had used a Hertz clock mounted to his red Opel Monza in 1985. This had been done on the occasion of the Clash of the Titans 10km road race. The winner of the inaugural race was Freddie Damon of UWC, a fine exponent of the 800m race and for many years Jantjie Marthinus’ understudy.
Landsman says he has to acknowledge Titans as a top club in South Africa.
“Colin Jeftha had a disciplined structure at Titans which rubbed off on the athletes. Colin created opportunities for us under trying circumstances. Remember the Clash of the Titans 10km Challenge? This was one of the best-organised races in the country because of Colin’s efforts. The race had a high profile.”
To be continued.