The University of Pretoria has had many famous athletes through their institution, with some even making their way to the Olympic Games.

The first name that many should recognise is Caster Semenya. Caster Semenya first began her journey of becoming a middle-distance runner when she moved out of Limpopo to UP and joined TuksAthletics in 2009. According to TuksSport, in 2018 the University of Pretoria named Semenya as the Athlete of the Century at the TuksAthletics Centenary gala dinner, which celebrated a century of UP sporting brilliance. Caster Semenya won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and 2016 and earned herself three gold medals at the World Championships in 2009, 2011, and 2017. Semenya is one of the most recognised and famous athletes who began her sporting journey and career at TuksAthletics.
 

James Thompson and John Smith are rowers who have partnered together to do men’s lightweight double sculls. Both sportsmen began their competitive careers at the University of Pretoria at TuksRowing and ended up partnering together for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. An article published by UP mentions that the pair also earned themselves a medal in 2014 when they won a men’s lightweight double sculls race setting the best time achieved by a South African team at the World Championships. The athletic duo also won themselves a gold medal in the men’s lightweight coxless four race at the 2012 Summer Olympics. They raced the coxless four competition with Matthew Brittain and Lawrence Ndlovu. Both Ndlovu and Brittain have ties to the University of Pretoria with Ndlovu often using the High-Performance Centre at the Hillcrest Campus for training, and Brittain belonging to the Tuks’ men’s teams in TuksRowing alongside James Thompson and John Smith.

 

Lawrence Brittain is an excellent sportsman and rower when considering that in 2015 he beat stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer, and then went on to win a silver medal in the 2016 Olympic Games men’s coxless pair rowing race with his partner, Shaun Keeling. Keeling also belonged to the University of Pretoria’s TuksRowing team. Lawrence Brittain is Matthew Brittain’s younger brother, who was mentioned previously as winning the men’s lightweight coxless four race at the 2012 Summer Olympics. According to World Rowing, Lawrence Brittain believes his older brother, Matthew, has always been a role model for him in the rowing and sportsman department.

 

Akani Simbine is another recognised athlete and sprinter who began his career as an information science student at University of Pretoria, joining TuksAthletics shortly afterwards. Following this, Simbine went on to participate in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, placing 5th in the 100m final in 9.94 seconds. In 2018, Simbine won the 100m final at the Commonwealth Games and was named the 2018 Commonwealth Games 100m champion. According to Werner Prinsloo, Simbine’s coach, Simbine can medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Many famous athletes practiced and developed their athletic talent at the University of Pretoria, even winning and participating in major sporting events like the Olympic Games. It is probable that UP and its athletes will continue with this success rate when the current pandemics effects begin to subside.

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