FROM A RURAL VILLAGE TO THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES
by Michelle Carnegie
11 October 2017
He grew up in a rural village without parents and only a sister looking after him. His running track was dirt fields without any expensive running shoes or supplements. He knew little about the world of international running. But with the help of a very passionate running coach and a club that backs him every step of the way Tshepo Tshite will soon be off to the Commonwealth Games in Australia to represent his country in the 800m event.
Tshepo is part of the Nedbank Running Club’s Development Group in Klerksdorp, North West, where he trains under the watchful eye of former running great Pio Mpolokeng. After recently finishing second at the South Rand Region Champs in Zimbabwe, Tshepo got selected to represent SA next April at the Commonwealth Games. It will be the second time ever that Tshepo gets on a plane, and excitement levels - and training levels - are sky high, says coach Pio.
Tshepo, who is from a rural village in Rustenburg, North West, got ‘discovered’ last year when Pio travelled to several rural villages to identify possible great athletes. At that stage Tshepo was living with his sister and without any parents, who passed away a long time ago. He most certainly did not have the easiest of lives. Tshepo moved into the Nedbank Running Club’s Development housing in Klerksdorp in January this year and has since gone from strength to strength.
Pio, who trains around 20 athletes, says Tshepo excelled at his first proper race in March in Bloemfontein. He finished second in the 1500m in a time of 3:49. A week later he ran his first 800m event ever, and smashed it in a time of 1:48, taking the win and beating some of the best runners in SA.
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Since then Pio and Tshepo have been concentrating on improving his 800m times, which now stands at 1:47. He achieved this as the youngest runner and as a novice at the SA Track & Field Champs in Potchefstroom in April.
Passing it down
Tshepo could not have asked for a better or more experienced coach. Pio himself started out on the track with greats such as Hezekiel Sepeng and Johan Botha. When his coach passed away he moved to road running, with some highlights being a win (2:13) at the Dublin City Marathon in 2001 and another win at the North Korea Marathon a year later. In 2003 he placed 3rd at the Two Oceans Marathon. Sadly, after a car accident while training, Pio retired from running. He has been helping with the development of athletes ever since. “I actually use my very own training program from back in the days to train these athletes,” says Pio.
Showing them the ropes
Athletes from various ages share the Nedbank Running Club’s Development housing in Klerksdorp. They are like family to each other, motivating each other and training together. The Nedbank Running Club helps with their schooling, uniforms and other needs, backing them every step of the way on a journey to a better life and greater heights in their athletic careers.
Making it happen
Some great athletes such as one of SA’s best roadrunners David Manja started out at the Development Club. “Many others have gone onto University and have become teachers, engineers etc.,” says Pio. Another great development runner to look out for is Obed Kopong, says Pio. Obed finished 3rd at the Botswana marathon in May and this past weekend placed 3rd at the OUTsurance 94.5KFM Gun Run in Cape Town. He will soon compete at the Soweto Marathon in November.
“Athletics is in my blood. That is what I am passionate about. There are many obstacles and challenges in the way of these athletes, but I try my best to help. Without the support of the Nedbank Running Club I could not have done any of it.”
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