Local runner making great strides

Nkanyiso Mthembu in his starting pose for the 3000m steeplechase.

“PUSH yourself until you get what you want…” says competitive runner, Nkanyiso Mthembu.

The 20-year-old from Mondlo started his running career back in 2009, while attending Isolomuzi High School, where he was spotted by AbaQulusi coach, David Mdavu Khumalo, who encouraged the young athlete to join AbaQulusi Athletics Club.

At the time, Nkanyiso did not realise his gift, but Khumalo’s keen eye for talent would set in motion a chain of events culminating in a bright future for the young athlete.

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Over the years, he has added several athletic accolades to his name through sheer hard work and determination, applying himself to reach his full potential as a runner to be reckoned with.

In 2015, Nkanyiso travelled to Ulundi to take part in the 10km leg of the Zululand Ultra Marathon and finished in the top five. He also boasts a time of 7min 59sec in the 3000m steeplechase which, although not registered on the All-Time Athletics website, would feature somewhere in the top 40 ‘All-time men’s best 3000m steeplechase’ list.

In order to reach his full potential, Nkanyiso has travelled all over South Africa, from Vryheid to Johannesburg, where he joined the Benoni Harriers for three months, where the Vice Principal and athletics coach at Benoni High also noted his talent on the track.

Subsequently, Nkanyiso was taken to Cape Town by the coach, where he completed 10km in 29 minutes and then on to Botswana to take part in an athletics camp.

From there, he received advice on how to win from South African runner, Ruben Ramolefi, who specializes in the 3000 metres steeplechase and is currently the South African record holder, according to Wikipedia, and also won the National Championship in 3000 metres steeplechase in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011.

Now based in Daveyton, Benoni, where he resides with his manager, Nkanyiso is receiving training at the High Performance Centre, an athletics academy near Pretoria, from Ramolefi, as well as Michael Seme, who has coached the likes of Caster Semenya, Stephen Mokako and Wade van Niekerk.

He follows a strict

diet and training program. No meat, no fat, no sugar and no alcohol. He eats only vegetables and carbohydrates while in training and drinks only water. For a protein boost, he drinks seven eggs every day and consumes three soft boiled eggs after training.

Nkanyiso is grateful to all who have supported, encouraged and motivated him to get to this point, including his teachers in high school, Mr Mhlanga, Mr Menjuka, Mr Thabede and Mr Masitheng. His wish is that the municipality will promote local athletes by building and maintaining adequate grounds for training as there are no facilities in Mondlo in decent condition. He hopes that the chairperson of AbaQulusi will also create coaching clinics in the area to help local athletic coaches to gain more knowledge on training.

Nkanyiso is hoping to put Vryheid on the map later this year when he will travel to America to compete in the New York Marathon and is looki

ng forward to taking part in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban.

“All in all, I’m grateful,” he smiles confidently. “Those who follow in my footsteps must realise, you must work hard if you want to be a champ. Be a good teamplayer and always have respect. Without respect, no one will help you.”

He concludes the interview with a promise: “One day I will come back to Vryheid with an Olympic gold medal,” he states and, judging by his confidence and positive attitude, it seems entirely possible.

Although he is no longer based in Vryheid, Nkanyiso encourages other hopefuls to never forget their roots and hopes that AbaQulusi Municipality will do more to develop local youth in sports.

Elaine Rodway

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