Caster Semenya’s achievement of breaking Zola Budd’s 34-year-old 1 500m South African record at the Commonwealth Games, is a reminder of just what an outstanding athlete the teenage Budd was when she set that mark in Port Elizabeth in March 1984.
Think how many muscular competitors, wearing the latest scientifically designed footwear and brought to perfect physical condition by top coaches, must have tried to beat Budd’s time.
It took Semenya to break one of the longest standing records in South African track and field and then by only one second. She crossed the line in 4:00.71.
I’ve been hearing from a retired civil engineer from Tokai how on January 5, 1984 he saw Budd create a new world 5 000-metre record at Stellenbosch University’s Coetzenburg Stadium.
He was well aware of Budd’s growing fame and so when he heard the 17-year-old was to compete at Coetzenburg, he asked his wife and two daughters if they’d like to see Budd in action. Only his younger daughter responded and the two set off for what turned out to be an unforgettable experience.
They watched this barefoot slip of a girl lapping her competitors so many times, they lost count. Even when the January wind came down from the mountains to buffet the hoardings and blow the marker flags around, Budd did not drop her pace to finish in the time of 15.01.83. This was seven seconds faster than the world record held for two years by Budd’s nemesis, America’s darling, “Little Mary Decker” who blamed Budd for their unfortunate collision in the 1984 Olympic Games in LA.
Later in life they made friends and a movie together.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation did not recognise Budd’s Coetzenburg record because of apartheid. However in 1985, when she represented Britain over the same distance, she officially claimed the 5 000m world record in the faster time of 14:48.07.
Her life has not run so smoothly. She lost her beloved sister Jenny. In 1989 her father Frank was murdered and because of a quarrel, she and her mother Tossie were forbidden by his will to attend his funeral.
Her marriage to Mike Pieterse broke up but the couple were reconciled for the sake of their children Lisa now, 23, and the 20-year-old twins Azelle and Michael.
Budd still runs but does not compete.
The time she loved best, she says, was before anyone knew – even she – how fast she was.
First the bad news.
After writing recently about our walk in Silvermine when we intended to go to the bench overlooking Blackburn Ravine and Hout Bay but turned back because of our thirsty dogs, I was saddened to hear from Ernie Durra that the bench had been destroyed a few years ago in that devastating mountain fire.
Subsequently he wrote to the Friends of Silvermine Nature Area (FOSNA) urging that the bench be replaced as it was “a wonderful tourist feature and gathering venue for hikers and nature lovers”.
The upshot is that SANParks have agreed to replace the bench with one kindly donated by Annmarie Sainsbury, the widow of Chet Sainsbury, the much loved race director for 27 years of the Two Ocean’s Marathon and a keen hiker. He died in February 2016 at the age of 73.
Responding to request from Fosna’sOSNA’s George Smith, Ms Sainsbury wrote: “It will give me the greatest pleasure to donate the bench. I feel privileged and proud, and as Chet was fairly well known I feel a lot of friendly ‘bottoms’ may enjoy sitting there. It is also above his beloved Chapman’s Peak and Two Oceans Route.
“I am so thrilled you phoned me today and it is the best birthday present for him ever. Your call was fortuitous and a gift from God.”As soon as we get word that the new bench has been installed, we will take plenty of water for the dogs and walk to Chet and Annmarie’s bench to enjoy the views.
Fibre date wait
I’m not surprised to receive an email that the Go-Live date for Tokai of Fibre To The Home (FTTH) has been postponed. Unfortunately, based on the amount of unforeseen hard rock along the planned route, the completion date has been extended to July 20, 2018.
I’ve been horrified to see the rocks and large stones from domestic verges that have been dug up by the teams of workers soldiering their way down road after road. I thought that the men doing the cycle paths in Constantia had it tough, but at least they moved forward metre by metre.
The hard working FTTH labourers seem to go backwards and forwards over the same area and never seem to get finished. They have my sympathy.
Rumble in the jungle
Thanks to Di Kilpert I now know what to feed keets but sadly it looks as though the 13 baby guinea fowls have perished. When the entire family reappeared in our garden three days after hatching, the babies appeared to have grown. Now only the adults have been around and the female looks woebegone. And I’m not making that up. If another clutch is raised in that quiet corner of our garden I will promptly feed the keets dry Jungle Oats and lay on a shallow dish of water. The adults apparently like poultry mix while occasional raisins are appreciated as an expensive treat. But the problem of feeding guineas is that the food may attract the messy Egyptian geese.
You know the honeymoon is over when the dog brings your slippers and your wife barks at you.