BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
THEY were arguably the best three junior men’s sprinters — Craig Steyn, Shaun Vester and Teano Patience — to have graced an athletics track on South African soil (grass, cinder, clay/gravel and tartan).
Much has been written about Vester of the Grassy Park Amateur Athletics Club, but Craig Steyn of Stellenbosch was right up there with him (Main picture: Craig Steyn, left, and Shaun Vester).
Steyn was the absolute thorn in the flesh of Vester. And Vester knew it, but it didn’t slow him down, it got worse — make that faster!
For good measure, Patience of Spartans would upset the applecart in the 200m.
Patience went on to become a fabulous 400m athlete, running sub 50 seconds in the company of the powerhouse athlete Clint Cloete in the one-lap race.
Rivalry to savour
Steyn, as a sixteen-year-old, at the South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) Track and Field Championship, won all four of his events in 10, 7 secs (100m), 21, 7 secs (200m), the long jump in 7,05m and the relay – all SASSSA records on the day in 1985, the year 15-year-old Shaun Vester burst onto the scene. Steyn ran much faster and had jumped much further in the years to come. Vester would later join the ranks of Steyn.
Theirs were to become a junior men’s rivalry to savour.
They had no place to hide, the one or the other was always under starter’s orders.
You could see the blood pumping through their veins like that of stallions waiting to be let loose.
Their duels made for fabulous, if not, breath-taking performances.
In 1988, the junior men’s mark was lowered by Shaun Vester to 10,1 secs in the 100m and 20,8 secs in the 200m. The junior men’s long jump mark was already a phenomenal 7,37m set by Craig Steyn.
If you haven’t seen them in action, be sure that you have missed out on some of the most sensational and scintillating sprinting ever seen in South Africa.
Boiling hot athletics
On the other side of the apartheid divide, there were Jannie Viljoen (1987, Transvaal) and Glen Elfrink (1991, Eastern Province), but these three, Steyn, Vester and Patience, were most certainly not out of their depth – Steyn ran with speed and determination, Vester had speed he was not aware of (the most dangerous kind), Patience the strides of a Tommie Smith – boiling hot athletics!
Count in their long jump exploits of 7,37m and more, and few would bet against such fearless youngsters, certainly not in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988!
Barcelona was four years away . . . 1992.