South African 3000m steeplechase specialist, Ashley Fergus Smith, 22, bagged a bronze medal in his first international event during the World Student Games, in Napoli, Italy, earlier this month.
The UWC Bachelor of Arts first-year student, says the win is motivation ahead of the start of the athletics season this month.
In 2009, he received a scholarship to attend the Kuils River-based Western Cape Sports School, between 2010 and 2014. He says this played a key role in his dedication to the sport.
“I want to make the national team and compete at the Olympics. I want to be remembered as one of the best steeplechase runners in the world. Growing up I used to be fascinated by hurdles. Steeplechase running is one of the toughest races, it tests you mentally and physically,” he says.
“Other kids my age should not let circumstances stand in the way of their goals. Sacrifice what you don’t want for what you need,” he says.
Coached by SA steeplechase record holder, Ruben Ramolefi, Smith says he is coached by a champ to become a champ.
Ramolefi says Smith is a dedicated runner who is fun to work with.
“I’m happy for him. I’m in the Northern Cape and he is in Cape Town. When I started working with him, his former coach said he is disciplined and focused. We worked for 10 months leading up to the championships (World Student Games).
“First he is representing the green and gold as a student. It is a good basis for him when he makes the senior national team. I believe in him.
“Mentally it was huge for me and my performance during my first national student race, just after that everything skyrocketed.
“He has the potential to be one of the best. Our target is not to outrun anyone but to run good time,” he says.
Ramolefire presented the country in more than 15 international championships, including the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, African Championships from 2004 till 2012, and the 2004 Commonwealth Games.
He says Smith runs very good times at training, and can translate these into more wins during this year’s season.
“My best races were up to 2011, but my best years started then.
“Growing as a child of God has so much more benefit than growing physically. When you chase all the material things, that’s when you will lose everyone and yourself. Righteousness will be guided down to him.
“That’s what I always tell my athletes, they are spiritually at the right place,” Ramolefi says.