Former track star Newton runs out to support tomorrow’s stars

2014-10-06 00:00

LEE-ROY Newton, one South Africa’s most famous sprinters, might not be burning it up on the track any more but he is providing guidance and opportunities to Africa’s upcoming sportsmen.

Newton, who earned a gold medal in the 4x100 metres relay at the 2001 World Championships after the winning American team were disqualified, and won a silver medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in the same race, made his own way to success having come from a disadvantaged background.

Talking to The Witness, Newton recalls his early years.

“I grew up in Port Elizabeth and went to St Thomas Senior School. In a way I always knew I was fast — being a township kid you knew who could run the fastest,” he said with a smile.

After school he went to Port Elizabeth Technikon (now NMMU) and started off studying Fine Arts but he quickly excelled on the track.

“I had my first proper coach at Varsity and the shift in my performance started there. If you are fairly talented and you have structured training programme you can become a professional,” he said.

He qualified for the national team in 1998 and went to the World Champs the following year. He was cut from the team the following year, but 2001 was his big year.

“Having been in and out of the national team, it motivated me to train a lot harder in that off-season and I got another chance,” he recalls.

The hard work paid off as he and his team-mates eventually won the gold, which he says was one of the highlights of his career. “Standing on the podium with the world’s best was an amazing feeling,” he said.

Newton entered the world of sports management in 2005 but looks back on his career fondly.

“I like to look at my career collectively, I am South Africa’s most decorated sprinter in terms of medals and I achieved everything besides an Olympic medal. But I stuck at it for a long time and I was blessed,” he said.

Having worked for 360° Sports Agency for a number of years, Newton started up Newton Sports Agency in Durban in 2011.

The agency represents and manages sportsmen as well as doing sports marketing, sponsorship, research, public relations and advertising. But Newton is most passionate about representing sportsmen from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“There are eight IAAF authorised athlete representatives in Africa out of 180 worldwide. Most athletes are coached and represented by Europeans. I always asked the question, why can’t African athletes be represented by African agents?”

Keeping that in mind, Newton deals with a number of his clients while managing his business every day.

“Dealing with my athletes daily, I try and give practical insights into sports and life and I have to deal with everything in their lives.”

“In terms of the business side, I am not a sports fanatic and I don’t really get attached to any specific teams. I am more concerned about player welfare. Sport is not the real world, it is unreal and obscure. You have to give your clients’ perspective,” he said.

His agency has represented prominent Olympic and action-based athletes as well as national cricket players.

With Newton’s positive outlook on athlete representation, more underprivileged sportsmen might have the opportunity to represent their country in the future thanks to the work he does.

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