Sprint coaching specialist Paul Jacobus, from Westridge, a member of Itheko Athletics Club and a physical education teacher at Parkhurst Primary, believes there’s no shortage of athletic talent in Mitchell’s Plain.
He said that with proper coaching they can be nurtured to emulate the performance of South Africa’s current crop of national sprinters led by Akani Simbini who impressed on the world stage at the weekend.
Simbini led his team to victory in the 4x100m event, at the World Relay championships, in Silesia, in Poland, on Saturday, beating his Brazilian counterpart by 100th of a second.
The Brazilians who went into the race as current champions, initially thought they had retained their title, but were disqualified due to a botched hand-over and South Africa declared winners.
Closer to home, Jacobus accompanied a group of youngsters whom he trains, to last month’s junior national championships, in Paarl. Mitchell’s Plain has long been considered a powerhouse on the local athletics front, said the coach, and his athletes performed extremely well at the nationals to continue this legacy.
Although natural speed is an advantage, it takes a special kind of nurturing to take that gift to the next level, he said. Preparing for the national championships was extremely challenging, considering that there were no school athletics due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
To ensure success at the the nationals, Jacobus and his athletes wasted no time putting in the hard work once lockdown restriction allowed for minimum training opportunity. Jacobus said trains 40 athletes from various schools, 11 of whom attended the national championships.
“My main focus are hurdles and sprints, “ he said. “I’ve been training them for about seven years. I’ve been involved with track and field for 10 years. Over the past few years we’ve developed a number of Western Province and national athletes, in both high school and primary schools.
“In 2019, we had the number one hurdler in the country, the boys under-12 SA record holder at the time, Mondale High School’s Naeem Jack and Plumstead High’s Jaydin Fritz, also a national hurdler,” he said.
The two, along with Portland High’s Mujaahid Ismail and Mondale’s Jaden Solomons, won gold and silver in their respective events at the national championships.
Young Solomons follows in the footsteps of his father, Jody, who had also represented the school and province as a sprinter.
For the record, Naeem Jack won gold and silver in the boys’ under-16 300m and 100m hurdles events; Jaydin Fritz bronze in the under-16 100m hurdles; Mujaahid Ismail silver in the boys under-18 110m hurdles and Jaden Solomons silver in the boys’ under-16 100m sprint.