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

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

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

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

MATES Wayde van Niek­erk and his coach Anna Botha at the Rio Olympics

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