SASSSA champ Simpson’s talent not fully exploited

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O’NEIL SIMPSON (September) of Boland was a highly talented middle-distance athlete. An athlete short in stature, he held the South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) boys open 800m (1 minute 53,4 seconds) and 1500m (4 minutes 2,5 seconds) records respectively in 1979.

O'Neil Simpson
O’Neil Simpson.

He won several junior and senior men’s races.

In 1977, he was the South African Amateur Athletics Board (SAAAB) junior men’s 1500m champion in Port Elizabeth. John November of Western Province won the 800m race. November was also a good 400m athlete.

The SAAAB Track and Field meeting of 1978 in Paarl saw Simpson, representing SASSSA, streak to victory in the junior men’s 800m and 1500m respectively.

The other SASSSA athlete in the two races was the up-and-coming youngster Freddie Williams, 15 (under 16). Williams had been picked as a junior men’s athlete although he is a year younger than Simpson.

Simpson graduated to senior level and acquitted himself well of his task by winning the senior men’s 1500m at the SAAAB Track and Field meeting in Port Elizabeth in 1985. By then Williams had left the fold.

O'Neil Simpson
O’Neil Simpson, fourth from left, in the black vest, won the SAAAB senior men’s 1500m in 1985.

Simpson beat a distinguished field which included Harold Adams, Tobias, Philander, Booi Visser, Hermanus Williams, Patty Francis and Martin Saayman.

He was also a winner of the Elsie’s River Street Mile in Halt Road, beating multiple street mile winner and seven times SAAAB 800m champion Jantjie Marthinus of the University of the Western Cape.

Simpson crossed the floor to the South African Amateur Athletics Union in 1987 and subsequently ran a dream mile on the track, clocking 3 minutes 59,38 seconds at Coetzenburg, Stellenbosch. His best time over 1500m is 3 minutes and 41,24 seconds achieved in 1992.

He did not go to the Barcelona Olympics that year.

For all his talent, Simpson did not make a huge dent in his 800m performances in the way Johan Landsman (1:45,63), Freddie Williams (1:46,08), Jantjie Marthinus (1:46,6) and even Shaun Abrahams (1:45,03) did.

He was trained as a teacher at the Bellville Training College.

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