Mu­laudzi’s DEATH JOLTS SOUTH AFRICA

The na­tion has lost a true hero, says Pres­i­dent Zuma

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pomokhine@city­press.co.za

Con­do­lences con­tin­ued to pour in yes­ter­day fol­low­ing the tragic death of for­mer world 800m cham­pion Mbu­laeni Mu­laudzi.

The suave for­mer ath­lete many con­sid­ered a na­tional hero died on Fri­day aged 34 in a car crash on his way to a Jo­han­nes­burg ath­let­ics meet­ing. His un­timely death has left the en­tire coun­try and sports fra­ter­nity dev­as­tated.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma said: “The na­tion has lost a true hero and one of our most dis­ci­plined and tal­ented ath­letes, who flew the South Africa flag across the sport­ing world.

“We wish to con­vey, on be­half of the gov­ern­ment and the en­tire na­tion, our heart­felt con­do­lences to his fam­ily, Ath­let­ics South Africa, the South African sport­ing fra­ter­nity and the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee.”

The Sports Min­istry of­fice said: “Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula has just re­ceived the sad news of the un­timely death of the South African 800m icon.”

The ANC Youth League said it was dis­turbed by the pass­ing of “the All Africa Games and World Cham­pi­onship star”.

“He was lit­er­ally our coun­try’s flag­bearer in the 2004 Sum­mer Olympics in Greece and our sym­bolic flag-bearer in all the in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ments he has ever par­tic­i­pated in,” it said.

South African Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee CEO, Tubby Reddy said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was dev­as­tated by the death of an “icon in South African sport who raised the na­tion’s flag high in in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events.”

Softly spo­ken Mu­laudzi had an en­vi­able record on the track dur­ing his il­lus­tri­ous run­ning ca­reer be­fore in­juries forced him into re­tire­ment last year.

The Lim­popo-born mid­dle dis­tance run­ner, who started run­ning as a grade two pupil and had an ap­ti­tude for most sports, in­clud­ing soc­cer, burst on to the in­ter­na­tional scene by snatch­ing a gold medal at the 2002 Manch­ester Com­mon­wealth Games.

He won a sil­ver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and earned gold at the 2009 World Cham­pi­onships in Berlin, Ger­many. The ac­com­plish­ments were the high­lights of his dis­tin­guished ath­let­ics ca­reer.

One still vividly re­mem­bers the mem­o­rable mo­ment in 2004 when the king of the track car­ried his coun­try’s flag with pride at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Athens spec­ta­cle. It re­mains to be seen who will mo­ti­vate the coun­try’s bud­ding ath­letes, now that this gen­tle gi­ant is no more.

May his soul rest in peace!

PHOTO: IAN WALTON / GETTY IMAGES

TRAILBLAZER Mu­laudzi in ac­tion in the semi­fi­nals of the men’s 800m at the IAAF World In­door Cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest in 2004

PHOTO: AP PHOTO / GERO BRELOER

ICON Mu­laudzi cel­e­brates win­ning gold in the men’s 800m at the World Ath­let­ics in Berlin in 2009

PHOTO: BARRY ALD­WORTH / BACK­PAGEPIX

VIC­TO­RI­OUS Mu­laudzi thanks the crowd after win­ning the men’s 1 500m

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