Vernon Balie races to a WP sprint double

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BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

THIS is the final chapter of a two-part series about ace sprinter Vernon Balie, centre, the former WPSSSU and WPAAU sprint champion.

 Read part one here: Ace sprinter Balie bides his time to perfection

HAVING secured the WPSSSU 100m title, Balie went on to win the WP Amateur Athletic Union’s senior men’s 100m title at the Green Point Stadium (not Track) in March, 1973.

A neatly framed photograph of Vernon Balie of Hewat storming to victory in the senior men’s 100m at the Green Point Stadium in 1973.

Recalling his own exploits on the track he said that that he had a personal best of 10,6 seconds – indeed a fast time in 1973.

The proof of his performance was in a neatly framed photograph of him storming to victory at the Green Point Stadium. On his left are two sprinters; one from Spartans and another from South Peninsula, the names he no longer remembers.

SA Library

“I would like you to visit the SA Library and look in the third month of 1973 in a copy of the Cape Times for the photo of the race which verifies the time of 10,6 seconds,” he requested.

The SA Library was devoid of the cutting as not all the editions (*early and ** replate editions) had been filed in the archive.

The cutting to verify Balie’s very good time of 10,6 seconds was found in an article headlined “TRIUMPH FOR A BOY NAMED SMITH”.

The article was part of the Terrence Smith scrapbook collection. Smith had run 49,3 seconds for the 400m as a schoolboy athlete, and as a result had gotten the headlines.

The article captures the winning time of 10,6 seconds by Vernon Balie of Hewat who won the WP senior men’s 100m title in 1973 in addition to his WPSSSU boys’ open 100m title.

However, the athletes on the photo with Balie didn’t finish on the podium with him. Those spots went to George Montanus, the 1969 and 1970 WP sprint champion, and another sprinter of Hewat Basil Kannemeyer who occasionally upset the applecart in the sprints.

Generous coverage

But there was generous coverage in the Cape Times of the white middle distance stars Marcello Fiasconaro and Danie Malan, and the South African Games which included West Germany, USA, Britain, Japan, France, Rhodesia, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Canada, Sweden and Spain.

The Games were held at the Pilditch Stadium, Pretoria, and included black participants Adolf Treuh (400m – 46,2 seconds) and Joe Leserwane (46,5 who finished second and third behind Fiasconaro).  They were also the first black medallists of the Games.

Ismail Collier of Natal sweeps to victory in the senior men’s 200m ahead of Mohammed Paleker at the SA Championship in Durban in 1975. His winning time was 21,1 seconds, an SA record at the time.

The two were affiliated to the South African Bantu Athletics Association.

A third athletics union existed which accommodated mainly white athletes – the South African Amateur Athletics Union.

Young Collier

The WP and SA senior championships were held at the Green Point Stadium in 1973, the year Balie became the WP sprint champion. A youngster by the name of Ismail Collier, in his first year as a senior athlete, became the SA sprint champion. Balie, Montanus, Collier, and McLean made up the core of the senior men sprinters at national level in 1973. O’Ryan was more of a 200m and 400m athlete. (McLean, originally from the Eastern Cape, was a rival to John Wippenaar at SA schoolboy level up to 1970)

Waiting in the wings in 1973 were the combustible Andy James and the rangy Mohamed Paleker, the two sensational Belgravia High School sprinters who would dominate sprinting in the Cape in the mid-1970s, together with McLean who competed as a senior men’s sprinter for several years.

The article captures the winning time of 10,6 seconds by Vernon Balie of Hewat who won the WP senior men’s 100m title in 1973 in addition to his WPSSSU boys’ open 100m title.
Interestingly, too, sprinter N. Smith (SPA), first in the boys’ under 11 age group, would become a future SA senior men’s sprint champion in 1984 (see article).

By 1974, Balie had stopped running because of his persistent hamstring injury, savouring the two prestigious sprint titles he had won in 1973.

Balie was born in Paarl where he attended primary school.

Schoonspruit High School

Later he attended Schoonspruit High School in Malmesbury because his dad Joseph Balie had been promoted to the position of principal at a school in Malmesbury, near Cape Town.

Balie is a retired history teacher from Oaklands High School.

He graduated with a teacher’s diploma at Hewat Training College and a B.A. and B.Ed degrees at the University of the Western Cape.

Wayde van Niekerk

He still watches athletics and was particularly interested in Wayde van Niekerk’s development and performances as an athlete.

“Van Niekerk’s record run in the 400m at the Rio Olympics last year was fascinating, to think that he was born in the Cape [a predominantly coloured area]. His accomplishments say a lot of the talent here. I can say all the sprinters of the Cape were present in spirit in Rio when he pulled off the remarkable feat in the 400m,” says Balie who hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for the sport.

He is married to Daphne and they have two daughters, Lorna and Claudine.

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