Portland High speedster eyes nationals

Saadiqah Corbett

In a city brimming with top-quality sprinters, Saadiqah Corbett, 15, a Grade 9 pupil at Portland High, is looking to secure her spot at next month’s national athletics championships, in Paarl.

A member of Bellville Athletics Club, Saadiqah and other track and field athletes from across Cape Town have been hard at work over the past few weeks, taking part in a number events ahead of Saturday’s final Western Province qualifying meet at Parow Stadium.

Fortunately, Western Province Athletics (WPA) have organised a number of inter-club events to ensure athletes receive some opportunity to go head-to-head in formal competition before the upcoming national championships.

This comes against the backdrop of a lack of school athletics due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the almost year-long lockdown. Like most athletes, Saadiqah had to rely on home and minimal outdoor training, including the odd beach run, as allowed in terms of lockdown regulations. Other than that, there was really not much that could be done, says Saadiqah, the middle child of three siblings.

This might explain her less than ideal start to the season, finishing third in the 100m dash and second in her favourite race, the 200m event during two meets at Parow Stadium since the beginning of the year.

Saadiqah Corbett

An all-round sporty person, the confident teen has also made an impression as a striker on the soccer field and was part of the Strandfontein-based YMCA girls’ soccer team that won the Mitchell’s Plain Football Association’s inaugural women’s league in 2019.

She’s also part of Camps Bay FC’s Rainbow Team set to take part in the Gothia Cup in Sweden, in July. The club has become known for sending a boys’ team to this international junior tournament over the last few years, but this will be the first time a girls’ squad will represent the city, in Stockholm.

And, says Saadiqah, as much as she loves athletics, she also enjoys taking part in team sports, especially soccer. While at Caradale Primary School, in Rocklands, where she first obtained Western Province athletics colours, she also tried her hand at rugby.

However, playing with the ball at the feet, remains her first love, she said.

“I love being out and about, performing on the soccer field and on the track,” she said. “Other than that, I like dancing and listening to music,” she said.

“But this Covid business is beginning to work on my nerves,” she said, undoubtedly echoing a global sentiment.

Negatives aside, she also loves reading and spending time doing schoolwork, especially mathematics. However, said Saadiqah, remote teaching and missing school days due to the Covid-fuelled rotating school system makes learning a bit difficult at times.

For now, her main focus is to qualify for the nationals. Bellville Athletics coach, Eugene Atkins is confident she has what it takes to pull it off. Atkins, from London Village, Colorado Park, has reason to believe this, as he has worked with the youngster since her arrival at Portland High and has been tracking her performance since primary school.

He has been coaching Portland High’s athletes since 2015, mainly working with sprinters, who went on to help the school dominate The False Bay Zone’s A section over the last few years.

In 2018, the school finished in second place next to neighbours Mondale High, at the Western Province Super A section meet.

This particular competition featured A-section winners from the various zones across the peninsula.

“No doubt, she has what it takes,” said Atkins, who guided the WP side to the national champions in 2019.

“I don’t have to tell her to believe in herself. When I first started coaching them, I told the teachers I’m not too worried about an athlete finishing in second or third place as long as I can work with an athlete willing to put in the hard work.”

Portland High teacher Romano Petersen, agrees, saying: “We must give credit to coach Eugene. He is the one who always motivates our athletes. He is like a father figure, the force that pushed them through lockdown to keep them fit and ready to compete.”