Playing sport in the midst of COVID-19 has been strenuous, but many sportspeople soldiered on and took full advantage of any respite from the pandemic to do what they love the most – to play – with some enjoying outstanding results.
The University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Sports Administration hosted the annual Sports Awards recently to recognise the outstanding achievements of the campus sports men and women in 2021.
“This has been a very challenging year, but we are grateful that we were able to play sport,” said Mandla Gagayi, Director of UWC Sport. “We lost many friends and family members to the pandemic; therefore, we must always be grateful that we are still here doing what we love.”
Gagayi saluted the support services teams, including drivers, medical support, security, facilities and sport administrators, for ensuring that sport events could take place. He gave a special thanks to the Risk and Compliance Division for all the advice and support with COVID-19 protocols.
“It is through their guidance that UWC was among the few universities to go back to playing sport in October 2020,” said Gagayi.
He also thanked student athletes and coaches for their bravery in choosing to play sport against opponents of whom they were at times not sure of their COVID-19 status.
“We must make it our mission to ensure that we encourage our friends and families to vaccinate so that we can stop living in fear and that we can go back to having our supporters come to the Operation Room (the UWC Sports Stadium),” said Gagayi.
In his keynote address, UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, noted that it had been wonderful seeing athletes return to the field of play this year after the restrictions of 2020 and, “even better, the many successes that they have had”.
“What has made me more proud is seeing the enthusiasm with which all our teams and individual athletes returned to the field, some of whom were called up for duty on provincial and national teams. Well done to all of you,” said Prof Pretorius.
“It must have been a very challenging time to play with the fear that you might contract the virus if you started practising sport again. This, we saw with our teams [notably the men's rugby and women's football] who had to travel to Pretoria to play in bio-bubbles with regular COVID-19 testing and no one in the stadiums to cheer them on.”
Prof Pretorius paid tribute to the “extraordinary efforts” of the women’s football team for bringing home the Varsity Women’s Football title, saying holding the trophy when he welcomed the team at the airport “was one of the highlights of my year”.
He said he was just as proud of all the other sporting achievements, mentioning the women football’s good showing in the Hollywoodbets Super League, the athletics team’s fourth finish at the USSA Cross Country race, the netball team’s brilliant run in the inaugural provincial Twizza Netball Club Championships - which the men’s team won - and the women’s team finishing as runners-up. He also lauded the two medals that UWC won at the USSA Karate Online Kata Championships and the selection of four basketball players for the CUCSA national squad.
Prof Pretorius also congratulated Gagayi for leading the way by being nominated for the FISU Gender Equality Champion Award and being appointed to serve on SASCOC’s Policy Development Commission.
“This shows that we have depth on and off the field and I'd like to thank all the players, coaches and sports staff for their efforts and commitment to UWC sport,” he said.
UWC Sport Council Chairperson X-Nita Stuurman congratulated the award winners and said their achievements are proof that “you can do anything if you set your mind to it.
“We at UWC are so proud of your academic and sporting achievements, and thanks everyone for working so hard and not giving up during these troubling times,” she said.