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17 May 2022
Training while fasting and winning gold
During the month of Ramadan, University of the Western Cape (UWC) student Thomas Faheem Najm Struis woke up at 4am to train before starting to fast. His determination helped him to achieve his goal of winning medals at the University Sport South Africa (USSA) Track and Field Championships.
 
Thomas Struis celebrates winning the 21.1km race alongside
teammate Mziwamadoda Nonjiko

He won silver in the 10 000 metres and gold in the 21.1km race. Struis led from start to finish in the latter event, running a personal best time of 1:05.49. In the process, the final-year BEd student’s victory helped UWC secure seven medals at the event to finish seventh out of 23 universities.

“That was a very big moment for me because I am ending off my study years at UWC on a very positive note,” Piketberg-born Struis said.

“It’s a privilege to run the first USSA meeting in almost seven years at our campus. Winning these medals means a lot for me. The distance runners delivered again. Our team also won two golds.”

Struis said preparing for the event during Ramadan was not easy. 

“There were times where my energy levels were low, but my coach noticed it and constantly reminded me he was very impressed with my efforts.”

A dedicated athlete who loves challenges, Struis said he lives his athletic life by following Sir Mo Farah’s saying: “Don’t dream of winning, train for it”. His biggest motivation was the USSA championships because he could not qualify for Athletics South Africa National Championships after suffering an injury earlier this year and being unable to train.

Struis, who is also a technical official and a volunteer at UWC Sports Administration, said his biggest inspirations are his family, friends and his community on the West Coast. 

“I want to show them that you can live in the worst circumstances, but don’t let that define you. My goal is not to compete with others but to motivate them. One day when someone ends up following in my footsteps it must not end up directing that person to the wrong place, but to a good destination.”

Glen Bentley, Manager of the UWC Athletics Club, congratulated Struis and his fellow athletes for flying the university flag high. Other UWC medal winners included Geraldine Timoteus (née King), who won a gold in the high jump; Atlegang Lekabe, who won silver in the decathlon; and Brendon Lentswe, who won bronze in the men’s 10 000m. In the team competitions, the men’s 21.1km team - consisting of Struis, LentsweMziwamadoda Nonjiko and Jason Koopman - won gold, and the men’s 4x100m relay team took the bronze medal.

Bentley, who was the director of the event, said the successful hosting of the USSA Championships on campus this month was a demonstration that the university is ready for bigger events.

“UWC upgraded its sports facilities, and both our track and field are recognised by World Athletics. That means we can host national and continental competitions where world records can be broken. Because the university invested in the upgrading of this facility we needed to justify the investment, and this event has done just that.” 

Bentley, who is also the Manager of Support Services at UWC Sports Administration, said the long-term objective of the event is to attract high school learners who choose UWC as their preferred university to study and play sports.

He said the athletics community had given the thumbs-up to the event and to the facility, and he thanked internal and external role players for their contributions. These include other UWC departments, student bodies, University of Stellenbosch, Parow Athletics Club, Western Province Athletics, Boland Athletics and members of the UWC alumni community.

UWC alumnus, Harry Guta, a technical official who has been involved with UWC Athletics since the 1990s when the late Roger Adams was still the coach, said: “Through the storm we were there to help athletes - not only from UWC but from around the country. To see students showcasing their talents to qualify for other national and continental events is what motivated us to give our best free of charge.”
 
Geraldine Timoteus (née King) won USSA gold in the high jump a few weeks after marrying erstwhile UWC athlete Anthony Timoteus
Images courtesy Skhu Nkomphela/UWC Sport