Last year took many people by surprise and affected a number of individuals with countless losses and sorrows. TuksSport also experienced difficulties, with several contact sports being reduced or postponed, and a couple of UP athletes being affected by the COVID-19 virus themselves. It was a challenging year, but athletes pulled through and continued with their hard work, training and practice.
TuksAthlete, Wenda Nel, unfortunately, contracted the virus. Nel was fortunate enough not to experience any of the serious symptoms that COVID-19 can present, although she is still taking it easy, especially for her lungs. According to TuksSport’s Wilhelm de Swardt, “the TuksAthlete admits that […] during the national lockdown, there were times when she was slightly frustrated”. Nel has a lot more appreciation for being an athlete now after realising how a passion and skill can be unappreciated until it is taken away. Nel is currently in a good place and competed at the 2015 Olympic Games, in the 2015 World Championships 400m-hurdles final and won bronze at the 2015 Commonwealth Games. Nel also has titles at the African and South African Championships.
“It was a challenging year, but athletes pulled through and continued with their hard work, training and practice.“
Llewellyn van Leeuwen, TuksGolf’s head coach, also had the unfortunate experience of testing positive for the virus. Despite the COVID-19 setback, van Leeuwen continued to help and train his player, George Coetzee. With the help of van Leeuwen, Coetzee won the European Tour’s Portuguese Masters Tournament, a big achievement for the athlete. According to TuksSport, van Leeuwen is extremely gifted but “unfortunately, he got hit by a cricket ball in the eye while at school. He suffered a detached retina that affected his vision.” This ended his sporting career, however, he continued to coach the sport, helping others realise their talents and achieve their goals.
TuksSwimmer, Kaylene Corbett, a possible and hopeful Olympian, learnt to live in the moment during the many weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown last year. According to TuksSport, Corbett “chooses to see the glass as half full rather than half empty”. Lockdown was not easy for Corbett as she had no access to pool facilities and had to learn to train with other techniques on land. This resulted in Corbett injuring her hip and knee. Her time of 2:24.18 in the 200m-breaststroke meant that she would have competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. However, she was frustrated when the Olympic Games were postponed, as well as the South African Swimming Championships being cancelled. She blames herself for her injuries as a result of not training in a pool, nonetheless, Corbett realised that she can never take anything for granted. TuksSports reports that she appreciates her opportunities and the privilege that she had to train in a pool before, and now.
“ Lockdown was not easy for Corbett as she had no access to pool facilities and had to learn to train with other techniques on land.“
TuksAthletic’s former SA 100m record holder, Henricho Bruintjies, believes he benefited from the lockdown during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Wilhelm de Swardt, “Bruintjies biggest challenge is not […] only to beat the stopwatch over 100 metres. He is now also focussed on changing people’s lives. To get them to feel good about how they look. The one thing, however, that remains the same is that less is better. It could be seconds in a sprint or the numbers declining when standing on a scale.” The Tuks sprinter began his own fitness programme and qualified himself as a fitness instructor. Bruintjies began online classes and started coaching people through a safe and socially distanced method. It seems that Bruintjies’ “21 Day Challenge” is working for many people, with feedback and testimonials from some who believe they already feel physically stronger, and others who have lost around 10kgs from his programme. The sprinter has not given up his dreams and career to compete, although he takes pride in the encouragement and change he’s made during the difficult lockdown period.
Despite the obstacles and frustration many UP athletes experienced, they kept a positive attitude and continued to work hard, regardless of the difficulties they faced. With 2021 being a year for further commencement of sport, the effort made by TuksSport athletes will not go unrecognised this year.