Naomi Schiff: On the fast track

2011-06-10 15:27

Six years ago, Naomi Schiff was just a girl who loved swimming

and judo until she attended a friend’s birthday party where she climbed into a

go-kart for the first time. She was immediately hooked and a year later she

competed for the first time.

“I was being a typical girl. All I thought about was how cute boys

were and how I liked being with my friends. Now go-karting is my life and I want

it to be my career.”

Now 17-year-old Schiff will be representing South Africa at the

Super Rok class in Italy for the first race of the series.

Though she had, at that time, no previous interest in motorsport,

her father was a Formula Ford champion in his youth and the gene has clearly

been passed on.

Between studying at school and training at the gym every day,

the grade 11 pupil doesn’t have time for much else. She races every second

week during karting season and trains on the go-kart track in Vereeniging

most weekends.

To get her into the Rok World Finals series, she had to secure a

spot as one of the top two best karters in the country. No easy feat.

She is also one of a very few girls racing in the country and often

competes against much older competitors who are well into their 30s.

“When we are kitted out and have our helmets on, we all look the

same so it’s not really about guys and girls.

The guys are usually very friendly

and helpful, but they’d much rather be beaten by another guy in a race than by a

woman,” she says.

“But being a girl in this sport is empowering and I’ve set my eyes

on going as far as I can and making a future out of this.”

Schiff says go-karting is not doing as well as it should be,

considering how much local talent there is.

“The biggest problem we face as youth in this sport is development

and funding,” she says.

Even though her mother is Rwandan and was raised in the Congo and

her father is Belgian, Schiff says she is proudly South African and has lived

here since she was four years old.

“Being young in SA at this time is pretty cool.

“We can do what we want and we have a lot of freedom.

We can date

who we want, do any kind of sports and chill with anyone from any race.

“Our generation shouldn’t let anyone ever tell us that we can’t do


The key is believing in ourselves and achieving the goals we set for



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