Ramsgate’s Wridgway named one of South Africa’s running heroes

2012-12-07 00:00

WAYNE Wridgway of Ramsgate has been hailed by Runner’s World magazine as one of South Africa’s 100 Running Heroes of 2012.

Wridgway, running captain of the Uvongo-based South Coast Striders Athletics Club, was acknowledged for the integral role he has played in the development of athletes from the surrounding rural areas and the revival of the sport in the region.

“It’s a great honour,” Wridgway told The Witness. “I’m very surprised.”

The 2012 Running Heroes, who include legendary athletes such as Bruce Fordyce, Oscar Pistorius, Alan Robb and Zola Budd, were selected via reader nominations and compiled by the Runner’s World editorial team.

An extract from the December issue of the magazine reads: “The man gives himself to running and to the South Coast Striders. He organises the so-called ‘development’ runners, who have become his children, and his family do the same.”

During Wridgway’s club-altering two-year term as running captain, he has unearthed and mentored talented athletes like Xolani Sakhile, Pardon Mathebula, Zenzele Dube, Emmanuel Yigwana, Timothy Shangase, Cynthia Xolo, Izaac Madlala, Goodman Nqayi, Professor Moloi, Mitchell Malinga and Michael Mzobe, and has transformed these athletes into near household names.

Mzobe is a case in point. Recognising the 23-year-old’s unlimited potential, Wridgway took him under his wing and offered him accommodation and employment, as well as sponsoring his running kit, as he does for all the development runners.

Mzobe has since established himself as the club’s pre-eminent athlete, winning no fewer than five awards, including the coveted Athlete of the Year accolade, at the club’s recent awards function.

Additionally, Wridgway plays an important role in transporting the athletes to and from events as far away as Pietermaritzburg, a task that sees him and his wife Michelle wake up at 2 am on race days to ensure sufficient time to make the rounds.

Asked what sparked his passion for developing athletes, Wridgway commented: “Watching these guys, becoming friends with them and realising how good they are — it fascinated me and inspired me to try to encourage them to get better … and they have.

“I suppose we have stuck our necks out for these guys in a way, but to see them flourish and enjoy life makes it worth it.

“How they have turned the Striders around and revolutionised South Coast athletics as a whole is unbelievable.”

Wridgway also headed a series of fundraising fun runs for a group of development runners to travel to Cape Town to compete in the Two Oceans Marathon and actively supports charities such as Pink Drive and South Coast Hospice through fundraising events.

Wridgway deflected the honour onto Michelle, who he said was the real protagonist.

“She’s more deserving of this honour than I am. She’s been phenomenal as a support base for the runners and in organising events.

“All the guys call her ‘mom’ and that’s a testament to the amount of work she does and the love she has for them,” Wridgway said.

Isak Ludick, chairperson of the South Coast Striders, lauded Wridgway’s commitment and said he’s been central to the club’s development drive. “The club and our athletes have gone from strength to strength with Wayne as running captain. He’s overcome injury and competes at a top level in his own right, so he leads by example as well. He’s indispensable.”

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