Newly-crowned national track champions Naeem Jack, 14, and Cole Fluks, 16, both pupils at Mondale High School, will have another shot at glory at Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) junior club championships, which starts tomorrow, Thursday March 31, in Potchefstroom.
The two speedsters blasted their way to gold medal victories, at the national schools championships, in Germiston, a fortnight ago, each coming home with gold and national titles for the 200m sprint events in their respective divisions.
Naeem also showed his class in the 100m hurdles race, claiming the top spot on the podium.
Their success comes in the wake of what can only be described as a difficult period for athletes across the board due to restrictions imposed following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago which resulted in limited training time and a lack of competition.
For now, they’re taking it one race at a time, putting in the hard yards every step of the way.
Of course, they will have their work cut out at the upcoming championships in Potch, but their recent victories will surely provide a much needed-confidence booster.
No stranger to hard work, Naeem learnt early on that success is the result of the effort one puts in.
“I was thinking that I worked the hardest for this, so now is my time to shine and I didn’t put all the work in for nothing, ” he said, reflecting on the seconds before the starter’s gun went off at the national schools’ championships.
“My plans are to make it to the Olympics and not just make it to the Olympics but to break the work record in 110mh.
Team mate Cole also has high hopes for the future saying he prefers the shorter sprints and would like to emulate his role models that includes Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt and former world 400m record holder, South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbini, SA’s fastest man over 100 metres.
Although only at the beginning of what looks to be a promising athletics career, those who know youngsters, believe they have what it takes to go all the way.
“Cole and Naeem are two very special talents and they have been for a long while, ” said Mondale High’s athletics co-ordinator, Val Raynard, who has worked with the two since their arrival at the school.
Raynard was quick to pay tribute to all involved in their success, including sprint coach Paul Jacobus who has worked with Cole and Naeem and other sprinters from various schools over the past few years.
“These achievements are a culmination of their hard work and dedication towards the sport. They also have very supportive parents and in conjunction with coach Paul and the support from the school, these boys can reach even greater heights, he said.
“We not only thrive on these types of success but make sure they get the necessary academic support where needed with extra classes and regular check-ups by the principal himself.
The school believes and thrives on wanting to improve the lives of our talented kids and not just in one code but across all sporting codes.
They really adhere to the three D’s that the school itself is built on – dedication, determination and discipline. It’s not always easy juggling school work and every day training they seem to make it work. We need these types of success stories so that we start normalising success, he said.
Jacobus, who runs a high-level coaching programme at Parkhurst Primary School in Westridge also had nothing but praise for the star athletes.
“Working with these talents is a blessing because we have to acknowledge where it comes from and that is God. For the last four or five years God has given me the grace to work with these amazing talents. It has been a journey with ups and downs but we pushed through our pains,” Jacobus said.
“They are unique individuals with an enormous amount of talent. Seeing them compete at these big stages is a blessing,” he said.
AZ Berman Primary School athletic coach, Deon Porthen, who has known Cole since his primary school days, echoed these sentiments, saying: “ Cole’s drive and passion is a testimony to his work ethic and I am extremely proud of him. I know his ability and skill, it was always there,” he said.
“I always tell my athletes greatness is about showing up, it’s about whether you want it or not. Cole really showed up. Rise my champ, this is your time,” he said