Simba’s sprint­ing sis seeks suc­cess

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Late Top Billing pre­sen­ter Simba Mhere’s lit­tle sis­ter Va­lerie is ready to make her mark in the world of athletics. The 21-year-old is liv­ing in Lon­don and pur­su­ing her dreams of be­com­ing a 100m and 200m sprinter.

“I needed to get out of my com­fort zone, so I de­cided to move to Lon­don in Septem­ber to train with a club called Speed­works,” she says.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Va­lerie as she was hop­ing to con­tinue her train­ing in the US. How­ever, things didn’t work out. “I went search­ing and ended up find­ing this club in Lon­don,” Va­lerie says. It was sim­ply by chance that she ended up in Lon­don. “I ac­ci­den­tally found a post on In­sta­gram of a girl do­ing blocs starts and she had tagged Speed­works in the post. I found their web­site and de­cided to con­tact them,” she says.

All it took was a sim­ple email and, within four days, the Lee Val­ley Athletics Cen­tre said it would love her to come and train there. But Va­lerie had to make big sac­ri­fices for this op­por­tu­nity to hap­pen.

“I sold my car and, five weeks later, I moved to Lon­don to come and make the dream a re­al­ity,” she says.

There’s no doubt that Simba would’ve been happy to see his lit­tle sis­ter fol­low her dreams. “He’d be proud I’m here pur­su­ing it whole­heart­edly,” Va­lerie says. “Simba loved athletics and had al­ways dreamt of be­ing a pro­fes­sional ath­lete. He didn’t pur­sue it fur­ther, but al­ways mo­ti­vated me to,” she says.

Simba was al­ways by Va­lerie’s side, sup­port­ing her along the way.

“I think that, in some ways, he tried to live through me. But I didn’t mind. He bought me ev­ery pair of spikes I ever owned and would can­cel work to come and watch me com­pete,” Va­lerie says.

“He was the equiv­a­lent of a ‘stage mum’, so I’d have to calm him down some­times. But it was all love. I miss that a lot. I was so used to hav­ing him there, so it’s been a quite an ad­just­ment to do things on my own,” she says.

When she was very young, Va­lerie re­alised that this was the kind of ca­reer she would like to pur­sue.

“I was six years old when I re­alised I was re­ally good at be­ing a sprinter, but I also re­alised early on that it got me a lot of at­ten­tion and friends,” she says.

On Septem­ber 15, Va­lerie fi­nally got the op­por­tu­nity to pack up her bags and go to Lon­don.

“We have great sup­port here – there are strength and con­di­tion­ing coaches and ther­a­pists who are avail­able to us all through our ses­sions. The en­vi­ron­ment is pos­i­tive and everyone here works hard,” she says.

“I’m in the mid­dle of win­ter train­ing, so we train five days a week from 9am un­til 2pm on Mon­day, Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, Fri­day and Satur­day,” she says.

The ath­letes at the club also fol­low a very strict diet. “I’m cur­rently work­ing on drop­ping weight. I eat of­ten, but very healthily. For ex­am­ple, a lot of fish, chicken and veg­eta­bles,” says Va­lerie.

She lives in Wood­ford Green in the east with two other ath­letes from the Nether­lands and Nor­way, who help to mo­ti­vate her at the club.

“I plan on stay­ing here for a year if fi­nances al­low me, and com­mit­ting the year to train­ing. The plan is to come back and make the South African team and hope­fully com­pete at the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2018,” Va­lerie says.

The next step would be the Olympic Games in 2020.

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Va­lerie and her late brother Simba Mhere

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