KZN’s Tanith Maxwell joins Boxer

2009-09-18 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S leading female athlete has joined the Boxer Superstore club, making it without question the strongest women’s club in the province.

Last year the Boxer club recruited other leading athletes, including Janene Carey, Jenna Challenor, Danielle Adlam, Grace de Oliveira and Maya Lawrie, who not only compete in the 40 to 49 age group, but are still competitive in open competition.

The club has provided the core for the province’s women’s teams that won the bronze medals at this year’s SA 10 km, and last weekend’s Cross Country Championships.

The addition of Maxwell, who is South Africa’s ninth-fastest marathoner of all time, and the fastest local runner over 10 km, provides a grouping that can match virtually any club team in the country.

“Since 2005 I have been focused on representing South Africa in marathons with a long-term goal of running the Olympic marathon,” said the Kloof-based athlete. “Stepping up this ladder has taken three years. Each year I first had to chase qualifying times in faster, cooler international marathons, then the only other marathon opportunity would be the Commonwealth or World Championships.”

It is not always easy to blend the desire to represent South Africa with the desires of sponsors who expect local appearance and coverage in return for their investment. Over the years a number of professional clubs have come and gone from the athletics circuit.

Maxwell commenced her commercial club life with Liberty Life, and was recruited by Harmony when the insurance company closed their athletics club. The demise of the Harmony structure two years ago saw the 33-year-old join the Mr Price fold.

Although one of the longest-standing sponsors, the Mr Price club face the same challenges of making the business model work, particularly when the athletes are unable to wear sponsors’ colours in national or international championships.

“It’s all well and good being the fastest South African marathoner, and it’s a goal we understand, but it’s not where Mr Price looks to get return for our investment in athletes,” explained Graham Daniels, Mr Price’s National Manager for Athletics. “We can’t get coverage back from athletes who are always competing internationally in South African kit, or here in provincial colours.

“That is not to say we don’t applaud their performances, but this does not fit the business objective.”

Few people understand the sacrifices and costs involved in achieving national ranking, particularly for marathoners who effectively have two competitive pay-days a year, making the journey to the top a hard hill to climb. Maxwell’s retainer has often been significantly lower than slower athletes willing to run more frequently on the local circuit, and with the addition of prize money, incentives and payment for media coverage, the financial cost of national ambitions escalates considerably.

“If an athlete wants to make money they are better going to Petro SA marathon or the Nedbank and Spar Series races, rather than representing South Africa in Berlin where they won’t make anything,” continued Daniels.

“Our club sponsorship and athlete support has to be measured against return in the local marketplace.”

The Boxer Superstores partnership view Maxwell’s athletic ambitions as complementing those of the business.

“It was a ‘natural’. Tanith’s vision of being the best she can be matches exactly the strategy of the Boxer Superstores Athletics Club,” said marketing director Andrew Mills.

“There are many ways Tanith can contribute to our Boxer ambitions simply by being the healthy, lively, goal-orientated person she is. We are creating opportunities for her to share her experience and knowledge to help others and become an ambassador not just for the club, but in the media for our stores and brand.

“Being seen racing on the road is just the tip of the benefits a women with such honesty and integrity brings to our brand.”

Apart from assisting with training on a club level, plans are afoot for Maxwell to provide guidance at monthly training days open to all juniors from disadvantaged townships. Her advice, motivation and experiences will also be carried in the Boxer Superstores newsletter and relevant media promotions.

Sporting the new club colours in her first race after the World Marathon Championships, Maxwell placed second to Poppy Mlambo in last Sunday’s high profile Spar Weekend Witness Ladies’ Challenge.

“It’s a great feeling to be in a club where athletes and management share in each other’s ambitions, it’s the sort of synergy that breeds success,” said MaxwelI.

“I was really excited to be invited to the Great North Run this coming weekend, but I know I haven’t fully recovered, so will go to the later events in the series.”

The marathoner will be flown to Netherlands for next month’s Croningen 4 Mile (6,4 km) race and then on to the UK for the Great South 10 Miler (16 km) on October 25.

Perhaps the four years of sacrifice are now beginning to pay dividends.

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