Behind every fast man, there stands a gran
Elderly coach Botha’s gentle push has so far helped two talented athletes to whiz into Olympic stardom Coaches of the year
When Anna Sofia Botha was a provincial sprinter and long jumper in her native Namibia in the 1950s, track and field was a world apart from the space-age pursuit it is these days.
“Those days, we didn’t have a synthetic track, we didn’t have a telephone and I’d never even heard of spikes,” says the woman who has come to be known as Tannie Ans by South Africans.
“For starting blocks, we used to find a stick and dig holes for our feet, and by the end of the meeting, there were so many holes on the track that you sort of looked for a pair that fitted your feet.”
More than 50 years later, Botha, who turns 75 next month, is still relevant in the sport as the greatgrandmother who coached the outrageous talent that is 400m runner Wayde van Niekerk to become an Olympic gold medallist, and to be a world record holder.
The world’s reaction, on realising the white-haired lady always hanging around Van Niekerk was not his grandmother but his coach, has catapulted her into superstardom. When she did this interview, she had just returned from the International Festival of Athletics Coaching in Italy.
“I did a Q&A session about sprinting ... things are going so crazy. It’s just one thing after another,” she says.
Closer to home, recognition has come in the form of a South African Sports Awards nomination for coach of the year, alongside Mamelodi Sundowns’ Pitso Mosimane, Caster Semenya’s coach Jean Verster and Paralympics coach Suzanne Ferreira.
But she is not getting carried away: “I feel so excited as well as unsure about the nomination because I’m not the only one, which means there is no guarantee I’ll get it.
“But I’m honoured and humbled at having had so much recognition for my hard work and sacrifices – it’s nice to know you’ll be rewarded in the end.
“I’m so happy [sports star of the year nominee] Wayde got recognition as well because, not only has he put our university [University of the Free State] on the map, he’s put the country on the map. Things like this contribute to the togetherness of the country.” Code: Nominated for: Other aChievements: 2013-14 leagxe title with Sxndowns, the 2004 SAA Sxpa 8 title with SxperSport United, the 2005 Aasa Cxp with SxperSport United and the 2014-15 Nedaank Cxp. This means he has won every trophy on offer domestiCally
SoCCer ( Mamelodi Sxndowns)
Winning the 2015-16 Premier SoCCer Leagxe title and the Telkom KnoCkoxt Cxp in the same season The CAF Champions Leagxe trophy fell oxtside the voting period for the SA Sports Awards
MATES Wayde van Niekerk and his coach Anna Botha at the Rio Olympics