The University of Johannesburg started on a path towards becoming a centre of global sporting excellence this season with a strategy to attract top athletes and compete successfully in the international arena. UJ senior sports manager Francois Fouché says the institution was determined to become a bastion of global excellence, not just in the classroom but also on the sports field: ‘To take the lead in local and global sporting performance we need to constantly find ways to do things differently and stay ahead of our peers.’
With the Rugby World Cup dominating world headlines this year, former UJ captain and alumnus Rudy Paige made his Springbok debut, while current student Wian Conradie turned out for his home country Namibia. Conradie’s fellow countryman Cameron Langenhoven captained that nation’s Under-20 team, while Hilton Modariki represented Zimbabwe. Fouché says one of the biggest success stories to date was the university’s African jumping academy, which was officially launched at the beginning of this year.
No fewer than three UJ jumpers ended their season in the IAAF top 10 rankings for their respective disciplines. Long-jumper Zarck Visser finished in the number two spot worldwide with a leap of 8.41 metres, the best ever performance by a UJ student. His teammate Ruswahl Samaai came in at number six with a jump of 8.38m, while Godfrey Mokoena recorded a distance of 16.86m to finish eighth in the world in the triple jump.
At the African Games in Congo in September, Botswanan high-jumper Kabelo Kgosiemang brought home a gold medal for UJ when he cleared 2.25m. South African women’s triple-jump champion Zinzi Chabangu came away with bronze at the continental games. Paralympic contender Andrea Dalle Ave claimed bronze in the T31 long-jump at the IPC Athletics World Champs in Qatar in October and was named Sportsman of the Year with a Disability at the Gauteng Sports Awards.
The university’s para-rowing team received their second straight Sports Team of the Year award at the same event. On the local front, UJ performed well in the University Sport South Africa competitions, winning both the rugby and hockey tournaments. The women’s hockey team also dominated in the Varsity Sport competition, beating Kovsies, who had not dropped a single match in the tournament, in the final.
Fouché says the athletes’ achievements were made possible by some top-flight coaching: ‘A number of our UJ coaching staff have been selected as national coaches for Team South Africa.’ He pointed to jumping academy head Emmarie Fouché, who is the national jumps coach for the senior team, and national throwing coach Pierre Blignaut as examples. Fouché says: ‘We also have Garreth Ewing, Robin van Ginkel and Patrick Tshutshani, who were chosen to guide the SA Under-21 men’s, Under-18 girls’ and Under-16 girls’ sides respectively.’
Fouché says UJ would continue to assist student and club athletes to raise the bar for themselves in 2016, especially as they worked towards final qualification for the Rio Olympics in August.
Photo credit: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA