THE long-striding George van der Burg of Alexander Sinton High and the Spartans Amateur Athletics Club inadvertently won five events at the South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) meeting in 1980.
As you might remember, you were only allowed two track events and a field event (three in all, however, you combined it – relays didn’t count).
Well, George won five: 200m, 400m, triple jump (in a SASSSA record distance of 14,12 metres), javelin and the 4X100m relay.
His main events, a mere formality, were the 200m, 400m and the triple jump (and 4X100m). He was the reserve for the javelin, and won! As far as it is known, no other athlete has won five SA senior schools titles in a day.
As a senior athlete, Van der Burg made a comeback to athletics on 11 February 1984 at the Spartans Athletics Meeting and herein lies the narrative.
Nazeem Smith of Hewat and Van der Burg locked horns in the senior men’s 200m that would become one of the most memorable 200m races seen at the Vygieskraal Stadium. Smith and Van der Burg were Western Province Primary School athletes. They competed at high school together during which time Van der Burg had the upper hand. But by 1984 Smith had reinvented himself.
Van der Burg and Smith were both Spartan athletes at different times of their careers. Smith was competing in the colours of Hewat. Van der Burg in the black and white colours of Spartans. On the day at the Vygieskraal Stadium, Van der Burg won the senior men’s 100m in 10,7 seconds into a stiff South-Easter. Smith was watching the race from a distance. Next up the senior men’s 200m race.
The starter’s steward Andy James pitted them together in Heat 1 of the 200m. Heat 2 was made up of athletes experiencing their first season as seniors – the tension was palpable. The race favoured Van der Burg since this was his main event. Smith, though, had ideas of his own. Van der Burg was on the inside of Smith. They settled into their blocks. Then, the crackling of the starter’s pistol and they were off along with the others in Heat 1. Smith took off like a runaway train as if the curve was a straight line; Van der Burg had no chance of catching up, although he had given his all, and by the time Van der Burg reached the 150-170m he was done running. Smith was streets ahead of Van der Burg, running into a South-Easter that was blowing notoriously at about 4pm. The time 21,8 seconds, Van der Burg clocked 22,6 seconds. It wasn’t about the time that day, rather it was a race to behold – in and out of the bend. Everyone was in shock that day, Georgie was gracious, so was Nazeem. There was no second heat, and there was no final, there was no point in it after all. Hats off to these two Sintonites who have provided us with many memories.