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Sport
Spier farmworker sets sights on Olympics

Dennis Muokwa, a farmworker at Spier Wine Estate, ran the 800 m in under two minutes at a recent Endurocad event. He finished the race in a personal best time of 1:57, seven seconds behind the winner.

“What makes this special is the fact that Muokwa only recently changed from running long distances to focusing on track events, in this case the 800 m. This brings him within reach of the Olympic qualifying time of 1:45,” says Jacques van Rensburg, recognised Stellenbosch-based athletics coach who ran his first dream mile at the age of 19 and until today holds two SA junior records on the track.

Van Rensburg runs a weekly training and coaching programme for Spier Wine Estate’s farmworkers doing long distance running. This initiative, made possible by Angus McIntosh – a grass-fed, pasture-reared beef producer on the estate – gives the farmworkers the opportunity to improve their endurance and hone their running skills. It was here that Van Rensburg noticed Muokwa’s 800 m potential and convinced him to change to this track event. Muokwa is now part of Van Rensburg’s “Shadow Chasers” training group, whose focus is specifically on 800, 1 500 and 3 000 m distances.

Muokwa is excited about the new challenge. “I started running at a young age and continued with long distance running after I left school,” says Muokwa. “Having changed to the 800 m recently was the right decision. I can feel the difference it makes in my motivation and performance levels, especially knowing that I have the potential to reach Olympic standards.

The success of the Spier training programme sparked the idea with Van Rensburg to establish an annual athletics event for Stellenbosch farms, where farmworkers can compete in a number of track and field events. Not only will this event promote athletics and healthy competition among the Stellenbosch farms, but it will also serve as a platform where athletes with potential can be identified for further coaching and training.

V Farm owners and others who are keen to offer their support to get this initiative off the ground are invited to contact Van Rensburg for more information. E-mail: runningclinic@hotmail.com 073 210 5514.

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