Comrades pays tribute to Chet Sainsbury

Chet Sainsbury (Supplied)
Chet Sainsbury (Supplied)

Cape Town - The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) is saddened by news of the death on Tuesday of Comrades Green Number runner and silver medallist, Chet Sainsbury. He was 73 years old.

Sainsbury was the Race Director of the Two Oceans Marathon for 27 years. He also served as a director on the Board of the Two Oceans Marathon NPC as well as holding numerous positions within the road running fraternity, including serving on the SA Road Running Commission, vice-chairperson of Western Province Athletics and chairperson of Western Province Road Running and Celtic Harriers Club.

Sainsbury was an ardent Comrades supporter and respected Green Number runner. He completed The Ultimate Human Race 14 times between 1978 and 1991; with his final Comrades having been run in the year 2000 being the 75th commemorative edition of the race. His Comrades achievements include 11 silver, one Bill Rowan and two bronze medals.

CMA chairperson, Macdonald Chitja says, ‘Chet was an amazing runner. His achievements at the Two Oceans Marathon, let alone the Comrades, speaks for itself. He contributed immensely to road-running and the running fraternity is certainly poorer with his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones. We will miss him.’

CMA vice-chairperson, Cheryl Winn says, ‘Chet was a legend in road running. His name is synonymous with the Two Oceans Marathon, Western Province Athletics and South African distance running. He was strongly principled, incredibly energetic, organised and methodical to the extreme.’

Winn reflects on one of Chet’s defining Comrades moments, ‘One of my most profound memories of Chet was in the 1989 Comrades Marathon in which he fell within a km of the start, crashing his elbow into a curb, strapped it to his chest and ran through 90km of discomfort and increasing agony, to earn his eighthsilver medal. After flying back to Cape Town and spending a sleepless night in excruciating pain, the next morning he was diagnosed with a fractured elbow. He was incredibly tough, determined and forthright, with a unique sense of humour and an uncompromising sense of right and wrong. My husband Mick and I consider ourselves privileged to have called him a respected colleague and very dear friend. Our hearts go out to his beloved wife and close partner in life, Annemarie.’

CMA General Manager, Chris Fisher says, ‘Chet will long be remembered for his selfless contribution to South African sport and road running, especially his indelible mark on the Two Oceans Marathon. His commitment to road-running, notably as an organiser, administrator and competitor will not be forgotten.’   

CMA Race Director, Rowyn James says, ‘I have known Chet since 1999 whilst at Nike and as the sportswear sponsor to the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon we forged a close personal and professional working relationship. He approached me in 2007 with a view to take over from him as Race Director of Two Oceans as he wished to retire after 27 rewarding years in the position.

This I duly did in January 2008 knowing that I was taking on a big task, having been so well set up and positioned by Chet. He however nurtured me in those first four months and I have him to thank for setting up my career path of Race Director firstly at Two Oceans and now the Comrades Marathon. His belief in me to ultimately head up arguably two of the greatest road running events in the world, was an honour and privilege, and almost as a brotherhood I will continue to uphold and drive those values as I know that’s what Chet would have wanted. All the best Chet as you start your next marathon and may you rest in peace.’ 

Two Oceans Marketing Manager, Stefanie Schultzen says, ‘He was a mentor and leader to me and many others. He touched so many people’s lives in a meaningful way. He contributed so much to athletics and his legacy will go on for a long time to come.’

He will be deeply missed.

The memorial service will be held on Thursday, March 3, 2016 at 16:00 at the Bishops Chapel in Rondebosch.

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