Bronze medal the start of bigger things for star athlete

Bronze medallist Ashley Smith, pictured here with 3000m steeplechase winner Mounaime Sassioui of Morocco and silver medallist Rantso Mokopane, at World Student Games, earlier this month.

The UWC Bachelor of Arts first- year student, says the win is motivation ahead of the start of the athletics season later this month.

The former Imperial Primary School and later, Western Cape Sport School (WCSS) athlete, says he started chasing his dreams before he could even walk.

He played soccer for a couple of years before he realised he was always thinking about long distance running.

In 2009, he received a scholarship to attend the Kuils River-base Sports School, between 2010 and 2014. He says this played a key role in his dedication to the sport.

He says his desire to win, on and off the field, is much bigger than his circumstances.

“It’s a bit hectic, you have to manage time. I have two sessions a day and I have to accommodate my studies.

“I’ve been running my whole life. It’s in my blood. I’m just a competitive person by nature. I don’t like to lose. That is why I stopped playing soccer because it is easier to blame the team,” he says.

Smith says he wants to give back to the community once he’s completed his studies.

“At the end of the day I’m using this (running) to create opportunity so I can be able to give back one day, hence, I want to major in political Science, anthropology and history,” he says.

Smith says he is now back from a one month break, and will look to continue winning in the athletic season.

“I want to make the national team and compete at the Olympics. I want to be remembered as one of the best steeplechase runners in the world. Growing up I used to be fascinated by hurdles. Steeplechase running is one of the toughest races, it tests you mentally and physically,” he says.

“Other kids my age should not let circumstances stand in the way of their goals. Sacrifice what you don’t want for what you need,” he says.

Coached by SA steeplechase record holder, Ruben Ramolefi, Smith says he is coached by a champ to become a champ.

Ramolefi says Smith is a dedicated runner who is fun to work with.

“I’m happy for him. I’m in the Northern Cape and he is in Cape Town. When I started working with him, his former coach said he is disciplined and focused. We worked for 10 months leading up to the championships (World Student Games).

“First he is representing the green and gold as a student. It is a good basis for him when he makes the senior national team. I believe in him. Mentally it was huge for me and my performance during my first national student race, just after that everything skyrocketed. He has the potential to be one of the best. Our target is not to outrun anyone but to run good time,” he says.

Ramolefi represented the country in more than 15 international championships,including the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, African Championships since 2004 till 2012, and the 2004 Commonwealth Games.

Ramolefi says Smith runs very good times at training, and he can translate these into more wins during this year’s season.

“My best races were up to 2011, but my best years started then. Growing as a child of God has so much more benefit than growing physically. When you chase all the material things, that’s when you will lose everyone and yourself. Righteousness will be guided down to him. That’s what I always tell my athletes, they are spiritually at the right place,” Ramolefi says.