Wayde’s coach Ans to get IAAF award

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

THE epit­ome of pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance, Tan­nie Ans Botha is set to be hon­oured at the IAAF’s an­nual awards evening in Monaco on Novem­ber 24, less than a month be­fore her 76th birth­day.

Botha has been el­e­vated to in­ter­na­tional star sta­tus in the last cou­ple of years thanks to her work as the coach of world 400m record-holder and Olympic cham­pion Wayde van Niek­erk.

“It is, of course, an in­cred­i­ble hon­our and I am so grate­ful to re­ceive an ac­co­lade like this at this stage of my life,” Botha said, con­firm­ing that she will re­ceive an award from the athletics’ body.

“There is a lot of emo­tion in­volved with this kind of an­nounce­ment.”

Botha has been work­ing with the South African wun­derkind since 2012, with Van Niek­erk reach­ing un­prece­dented heights in global athletics.

She has been the ar­chi­tect be­hind his suc­cess which in­cludes two world 400m ti­tles, an Olympic gold medal, and the world record in the one-lap sprint.

The 75-year-old said she would not have been able to reach the pin­na­cle of the sport with­out per­se­ver­ance and pa­tience. “With athletics, you al­ways have to keep your fo­cus on the long-term as there are many low points along the way.

“You have to be pre­pared for in­juries and ill­ness which sets you back and I’ve seen it with Thuso Mpuang for in­stance where it took us five years to get him from start- ing out in athletics to where I got him to a level win­ning na­tional ti­tles and qual­i­fy­ing for the Olympics.”

Botha and Van Niek­erk have ex­pe­ri­enced the peaks and troughs of in­ter­na­tional sport -- she took the phe­nom from an in­jury-prone ath­lete with im­mense po­ten­tial to one of the great­est sprint­ers in the world.

With the in­juries that had dogged him in his early years fi­nally in the past the duo were on a world­wide cru­sade from 2014, con­quer­ing one track meet­ing af­ter an­other.

But their good run of the last three years came to a screech­ing halt when Van Niek­erk sus­tained me­dial and lat­eral tears of the menis­cus, as well as a torn an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment (ACL) in a celebrity tag rugby match in Oc­to­ber.

“These set­backs cross your path and one learns how to deal with them but, I can’t deny it, it is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to process,” Botha says. “Yet it is im­por­tant to put it be­hind you as soon as pos­si­ble and strive to cre­ate some­thing even more pos­i­tive. It took us five years to get Wayde to record the times he has been run­ning over the last two sea­sons or so.”

Van Niek­erk is cur­rently in the US in the first phase of his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion af­ter surgery there two weeks ago.

“Wayde and I have a strong bond where we have faith in God who has guided our lives over the last five years. The op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess, Wayde is im­prov­ing very well but my first name over the next few weeks and months will be ‘Pa­tience’.”

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