R30 costs legend his life

2001-11-02 18:20

Johannesburg - Matthews “Loop-en-val” Motshwarateu, one of South Africa's most exciting athletes of the late seventies and eighties, on Friday died in Soweto's Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital after being shot by robbers who took his wallet with only R30 in it.

Motshwarateu - who died on his 43rd birthday, was shot four times during last Saturday's robbery. "Loop-en-val" as he was known, was one of only a few athletes who had been awarded Springbok colours for all three facets of athletics: track and field in 1978 and 1991; cross country in 1978 and 1990; and road running in 1990 and 1991.

He won track national titles over 5 000 and 10 000m and also the inaugural SA half marathon championship in 1981 with a time of 63 min 20 seconds.

After South AfricaÂ’s return to world athletics in 1992, he represented his country at the world half marathon championships, the African championships in Mauritius (he finished 2nd in the 10 000m) as well as in an international Ekiden road relay in Berlin.

He earned himself the nickname of "Loop-en-Val" because of an unusual style of running. It always looked as if he would topple over. It never happened and he always impressed with his tremendous speed and strong finishes.

Two of his best races took place in prestige meetings at Stellenbosch in 1978 and 1979 when he set national records over 5 000 (13:29.6 in 1978) and 10 000m (27:48.2 a year later). In the latter race he became the first South African athlete to break 28 minutes over 10 000m.

At one stage of his career Motshwarateu moved to Botswana to try and compete internationally.

He was selected for Botswana once, but then returned to his native South Africa where he continued his running career until the early nineties.

The President of Athletics South Africa, Leonard Chuene, said in a statement on behalf of ASA that the South African athletics fraternity mourn the tragic and untimely death of one of the greatest and finest athletes the world has ever known.

"Had it not been for the evil system of apartheid, Matthews would no doubt have been one of the athletes who would have not only represented our beloved country at the Olympics, but would have done so with distinction.

"That a hero of the people, and a soldier in the army of good, should have his life usurped by a villain, in such a callous and cold-blooded manner, is a serious indictment on the fabric of our society," he said.

Chuene then, on behalf of the Soweto Marathon Development Trust, dedicated the tenth anniversary of the Soweto Marathon, to be run on Sunday, 4 November 2001, to Motshwarateu.