Clem Sunter

Wings on his heels

2016-08-15 11:02

Clem Sunter

I got up this morning, switched the TV on and watched one of the best things I have seen in my life: Wayde Van Niekerk winning the 400 metres at the Rio Olympics. On the outside lane, he led from start to finish. As they came around the final bend, the commentator just had time to say he may be beginning to tire when Wayde kicked into overdrive for the last few seconds. Not only did he win by a convincing margin, he also beat Michael Johnson’s world record that everybody thought was unreachable for the time being.

Wow! What a race and what a legend a person can become in a split second.  In a sense the commentator subsequently apologised by saying: “He had wings on his heels.”  He also said it was probably the event of the entire games. It is just so nice that all this drama was about a South African and not an American, Australian or any other nationality. For once it was us that felt the glory second-hand – especially when Usain Bolt went up the stands to give him a hug and congratulate him after winning the 100 metres himself.

With all the bad news we have come to accept on a daily basis in South Africa, I have always said that the thing that gives me most hope about this country is the amazing array of pockets of excellence that in the large part go unsung around us. I am not talking about the famous celebrities, just the ordinary heroes and heroines who in a humble way do the most incredible things to change other people’s lives and the quality of the communities in which they live.

That is where the future belongs. Of course we need good leadership at the top; but it must be of a kind that puts wings on the heels of all those who come from any level of society so that they feel empowered to perform extraordinary acts like Wayde. A successful country nowadays does it from the bottom up, with a bit of help from the top down.

I hope that Wayde has lit the fire in the hearts of all young people in South Africa so that they break through whatever barriers exist and set new records in the fields they choose to be employed. But he has also shown that hard work and dedication are required to do so.

We must give him a hero’s welcome when he arrives home.

He has won true gold and made us all feel proudly South African!

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