Promising Pietermaritzburg middle-distance runner Zola Sokhela, who has just bagged a scholarship to study in the United State of America, aims to boost budding athletes from his hometown with the knowledge he is set to gain abroad.
The 18-year-old Sokhela, who recently completed his matric at Michaelhouse, has achieved every local youngster’s dream as he has switched the dusty Sweetwaters township for the shining lights of California in the USA. The talented teenager left the country last week to go and pursue his running career while studying towards a four-year degree in Political Science at Santa Barbara’s Westmont College.
In November, The Witness reported that the 800 m and 1 500 m distance specialist was the only KwaZulu-Natal athlete to make the cut in the South African World U20 Championships preparation squad. The Witness spoke to his father, Thulani Sokhela, who said as a family they were still finding it hard to believe their son was now miles away, in a positive way.
“It’s still hard to believe that our son is currently in another country right now and how quick his rise both in sport and education is happening,” said Sokhela senior, who is a social runner.
“From his primary days, when he got a bursary to go and study at Michaelhouse, we thought that was excellent for us and we were not expecting anything bigger than that as parents. That was a high achievement on its own.
“When he got selected to the South African team for the U20 World Championships we started asking ourselves what was really happening because we couldn’t believe it,” he said.
“When he got that scholarship to go and study abroad, I wondered what we have done to God to deserve all of these great things our son is achieving.
“We are really excited as a family.”
Coming from a place like Sweetwaters that doesn’t have a lot of sport activities, Sokhela senior said they’ve really never thought that Zola will go and be based in another country like America partly because of his sport of choice.
“All he wanted in his life was to go and represent his country abroad. To go and study in a country like America was never on the menu, it came as a big surprise for us.”
Sokhela senior said the success of his son was a testament that the rural areas have a lot of talent that could shine with a little bit of professional guidance.
“His biggest wish is to give back, especially to our local community. That is his passion. Whatever he has learnt from being an athlete here in South Africa (under the tutulage of coach Xolani Mabhida) and what he is going to learn in America, he would like to share that wealth of knowledge with the rest of other youngsters,” said the proud father.
“Our community is starved of opportunities but yet there’s talent. So, he is hoping with him being in America it’s going to equip him with great knowledge that he can share with others at the local level.”