Weenen’s Olympian

2012-10-18 00:00


LUCERN Valley, nestled in the heart of the hills just outside of the tiny town of Weenen. It is a farm that has been built up through many generations to become the fertile land it is today. A place where hard work is evident in the healthy plants and big vegetables produced seasonally. The sun rises through the mountains, slowly erasing the traces of the freezing night past and the sunsets mirrored on the farm dam that make you feel upside down.

This place was paradise to a little boy who has had such a passion for nature and a love of farming instilled in his heart by his hero, his dad. Philip was the firstborn son of kind, loving and very proud parents.

Philip loved farming with his dad, driving tractors around the farm; helping to count the bags of potatoes being loaded on trucks to be taken to the market; weighing the bags of potatoes which almost equalled his weight. By the end of the day he had at least one new scratch to show off and plenty of dirt all over his clothes.

He attended the local school with all the other farm children and from a young age his potential was evident in all the sports. He won all his races in every athletics meet and went home with a grin on his face because he knew his dad would be proud.

When Philip was eight years old, his dad was murdered on the farm. He had just had his breakfast and was walking back to the shed when two men attacked and held him, while another grabbed his pistol from his belt and shot him cold-bloodedly. His wife heard the gun shot and rushed outside, and found him lying on the dusty floor of the shed. She probably knew that he was dead, but she had hope and rushed him to the nearest doctor. It was too late.

It felt as if their whole world had come to an end. They had to move off the farm and try to make a life for themselves somewhere else in a place unfamiliar to them. A strong woman with her four young children entered the unsheltered life in the city. They moved to Pretoria where Philip’s mom found a job as a pharmacist. She worked long hours, sometimes including night shifts after a long day of work, just to get the bills paid. She had four children, who all needed to go to school and be fed and clothed, and Landi, Philip’s mentally handicapped sister, needed special care and attention.

Philip really struggled to adapt to life in the city and without his dad. His new school was much bigger than Weenen Primary and there were suddenly so many more opportunities. He got involved in school sport, in which he shone, and various other activities outside of his school life.

Because Philip’s mom had to work so many extra hours, her children did not see her very often and had to keep themselves busy. It was during this time that he got his first bicycle, a thick-wheeled bicycle with no suspension.

When he started his high school career at Afrikaans Boys’ High School in Pretoria, Philip started delivering newspapers in the morning from 4 am, when it was still dark, cold and sometimes wet. Not a soul was awake yet and the only thing he could hear was the sound of his breath as he strained up hills, his bike also seeming to battle beneath the weight of the newspapers. He earned R700 per month, which was saved towards buying a new bicycle and new equipment.

At the age of 17, Philip started taking his cycling more seriously and began participating in competitions. He joined a mountain biking club with a coach, so that he could develop his talent. He gained knowledge about the sport through the club and he really enjoyed what he was doing.

He carried on cycling throughout his high school career and after school he studied at the University of Pretoria to become a mechanical engineer. After just two years he dropped out to carry on with mountain biking because he knew that was what he wanted to do, and he knew that he was good enough to make it to the top.

He started his professional career as a mountain biker three years ago. He has improved a lot, especially in this last year. At the African Championships held in Mauritius, Philip was strong enough to win, and by winning this competition he knew it could possibly mean an inclusion in the South African team for the Olympics held this year. When the names were read out during a live broadcast and Philip heard his name, the feelings of excitement, gratefulness and pure happiness flowed through his body. All his hard work had finally paid off.

His family at home were all extremely excited for him and were all glued to the television during the broadcast of his race. The entire town of Weenen was in a state of euphoria, and everyone was excited and probably more nervous than he was.

He didn’t have the best of races because he fell right at the beginning and had a puncture later on in the race too. All in Weenen could see the disappointment and his trembling lip at the end of his race, and knew that this is not how he had wanted it to go.

He came home with the same grin on his face that he had after athletics races when he knew he had made his dad proud.

Philip is now more determined than ever to train hard for the next Olympics and he has not allowed any setbacks to determine his future.

I am Philip Buys’s cousin and I am proud to know him. He has shown me that even I can reach for my dream, a farm girl from Weenen.

About the writer:

Cara du Plooy is a fun-loving, sporty young lady from the small town of Weenen. She enjoys working hard at everything she does, and is working towards reaching her dream of becoming a doctor and helping others as a profession. She believes that “anything worth doing, is worth doing well”.

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