AS 2013 draws to an end, the Free State Times looks at the men and women who grabbed the headlines in a year that saw new stars born, old ones retiring and in one case another unfortunately passing on to the next world.
Brebner High School pupil Tyrone Mondi finally made a career breakthrough in the Grand Skills Final when he finally sailed through in the trials at Bolton Wanderers School of Soccer after failing in last year’s edition of trials.
The Heidedal-born starlet impressed Bolton scouts in September beating 150 contestants including four others from Free State namely Tshegofatso Mabaso, Gift Molelekoa, Donald Tshaba and Excel Motaung.
Mondi will be leaving in January for a stint with the English club. “It’s a dream come true for me…I have to grab it with both hands and make the most of it,” Mondi said.
Toyota Cheetahs prop Trevor Nyakane and fullback Willie le Roux made their debut appearance for the Springboks against Italy in the Castle Lager Incoming Series in June.
Others to debut for the national rugby side were the Blue Bulls trio of Jano Vermaak, Arno Botha and Jan Serfontein.
“It’s been a long season, working hard and trying to do my best,” Nyakane said.
The Toyota Cheetahs also qualified for their first playoffs in Super Rugby although the challenge seemed a little too much for the Free State side that got knocked in the group stages.
Fifteen-year-old Waylin Young departed for his first ever international cycling experience, winning two medals in the Herke-de-stad in Belgium and also Klassiker de Achterveld in Netherlands in the 50-day European tour in August.
“I didn’t expect to win but at the end of the tour I achieved more than my goals,” Young reiterated.
Hendrik Kruger the Pretoria-based rider won the Mangaung OFM Classic in 2 hours 12 minutes and 21 seconds in the 160km road race.
“It takes a lot of dedication to win a race of cycling. You have to put in extra effort, perseverance and dedication to win,” an elated Kruger said, commenting on his November victory.
HTS Louis Botha Technical High School scooped the silver medal position winning a total of R600 000 in their debut Sanlam Kay Motsepe Cup, losing to Clapham High School who won gold and a first prize winning cheque of R1million prize money.
“I thank God for the grace to have seen us that far…we would not have asked for anything more as it was our first time at the national finals,” said Prince Sani, the HTS coach said about his team’s performance in the completion held in September .
Cameron van der Burgh, who was this year crowned South Africa sportsman of the year,
continued with his impressive performances dominating the swimming world with a spectacular finish in the 50m-breaststroke in Barcelona to set a new Oceania record of 26.77 seconds.
“I cannot control what goes on in another lane and this is how I focus on the games. There is no point in being nervous of other swimmers. It’s just about focusing on yourself and what you need to do in order to perform at your best”.
Swimming sensation Chad le Clos had also an incredible year in the waters as he scooped a total of 24 gold, eight silver and three bronze medals at the FINA World Cup in Beijing.
“I just felt like I can try to do something special,” the swimming Olympian said.
Itumeleng Khune was in class of his own as he was voted by the public as the sports star of the year in 2013.
“I think all of us sitting in this room are champions, we are all winners. We all deserve to be walking away with this ward, but unfortunately only one can,” said Kaizer Chiefs goalie, who collected R1 million prize money and BMW car.
His goal-keeping abilities saw his team take the championship slot after eight years of waiting.
Khune was also this year voted 2012-2013 Absa premiership footballer of the season, goalkeeper of the season, players’ player of the season and Nedbank cup player of the tournament winning a total of more than half a million rands.
In September, South African netball team captain Maryka Holtzhausen got her 50th cap with the Proteas netball team.
The Free State-born star captained her team to victory in Malawi in May though they feel to England in September.
“At one stage I asked how much time was left. I was told there were two and half minutes and those were the longest of my life. We knew we just had to keep the ball in hand and we could do it,” she said, recounting the last moments of the game against Malawi.
Holtzhausen, who is the vice- captain for Mangaung Netball team and was also voted University of the Free State Sportswoman of the Year, helped her club win the Spar National Championships after 50 years of waiting.
December saw the untimely death of Jacob “Babe Jake” Matlala who in his heyday once held the World Boxing Organisation, World Boxing Union and International Boxing Association flyweight titles.
Babe Jake was the shortest boxing achiever at 1.47 metres.
In June, Benni McCarthy hung up his boots after a successful career spanning over 17 years.
He played at clubs such as Ajax Amsterdam in Holland, Celta Vigo in Spain, FC Porto, Blackburn Rovers and West ham United and finished his career with the Soweto giants Orlando Pirates.
“It has been a 17-year professional career that surpassed even my own expectations and I have been privileged to work under many great coaches, including the very best, Jose Mourinho,” said McCarthy, announcing his retirement.
The sick man of South African sport, Athletics South Africa (ASA), continued its seemingly fruitless quest to find a lasting solution to its administrative and other problems.
The James Evans board that first came into office in 2011 was voted out of power at the beginning of this month and a new interim committee led by Sello Mokoena was put in place to get try to the ASA back on its feet.
Free State teams Bloemfontein Celtic and Free State Stars parted ways with their coaches Clinton Larsen and Steve Komphela respectively.
Ernst Middendorp moved in to replace Larsen at Cletic, while Themba Sithole is at Stars but on an interim basis.
“I am pleased that we are creating opportunities, the more the opportunities we keep producing the better will be our chances of scoring eventually,” Middendorp said after his fourth game in charge, which like the first three was also a draw.
In August, Johan Cronje defied all odds when he scooped a bronze medal in the Moscow World Athletics Championships after he had undergone a knee surgery in 2011.
“The medal is my prize for all the hard work…it comes after my big struggle with spate of injuries which affected my performance at international level,” he said.
Female track champion Mapaseka ‘Speed Star’ Makhanya continued with her winning ways, wining the South African Senior Championships, Mauritius International meet, Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge and Gauteng Marathon.
Makhanya was also voted South Africa’s Sportswoman of the Year.
“I’m so excited I did not expect to win the grand prix. I thought I would at least finish in the top three,” Mapaseka said after winning the Pretoria event in July.