picture: lonwabo marele
K-Way VOB Running Club’s Uzukhanye Makhonxa has made the provincial team for the first time after a sensational season last year.
However, the 15-year-old’s shot at a national title will have to wait a little longer as sports events locally and abroad have been postponed to curb the spread of Covid-19. Last Saturday, he bagged a silver and bronze medal in the 3 000m junior provincial champs and 1500m under-18 race, respectively, at the Parow Athletics Stadium. That was a day before President Cyril Ramaphosa put measures in place to deal with the pandemic, including banning gatherings of more than 100 people.
Despite the long distance runner’s momentum being stalled competitively, Uzukhanye and his teammates are staying active by taking 6km runs around Khayelitsha.
Their training ground, Mandela Park Stadium in Khayelitsha, is also under lockdown.
He has taken part in over 30 races, which include a first prize team relay medal at the Cape Town Festival of Running two years ago, a second place finish as a junior at last year’s Don Lock 8km race, a third place finish as a junior at this year’s Top Form 10km race, and a silver and bronze medal for the 1 500m and 800m races at the Western Province Athletic championships in 2018.
Last month, the Grade-10 Uxolo High School pupil helped his school finish second at the high school zonal championships at the Vygieskraal Athletics Stadium in Athlone.
“Running for Uxolo is awesome. I’m well known as the best athlete at school. Running for K-Way VOB made me realise that running is not just a sport, it’s a way of a champ’s life,” he said.
Uzukhanye said the running bug bit him when he was just 7years old at Umthawelanga Primary School in Khayelitsha.
He said, growing up, every time he was sent to the shop with his younger siblings, who are also runners, or when he was playing with his friends, they would compete in races.
“When I was in primary school I joined the school’s athletics team (I was a short distance runner that time). The teachers didn’t let me run throughout primary school because I had asthma.
“Then in 2018, I joined the K-Way VOB Running Club, but the club usually trains middle and long distance runners. It was hard for me to keep up with the pace but at the end of the first week I got the hang of it,” he said.
Influenced by 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist British runner, Mo Farah, Uzukhanye hopes to represent the national team at the Olympics one day, while also being a motor engineer and an athletics coach.
Uzukhanye made the provincial team for the 1 500m event but specialises in the 800m, 1 500m and 3 000m races. In cross country he runs 6km.
“I wasn’t good enough in sprinting so I decided to do middle and long distance running,” he said.
The athlete said his parents, Nopasika Cimani, a self-employed baker, and Norman Cimani, a former sales assistant, are very supportive and usually watch him race.
Uzukhanye said other youngsters looking up to him should never give up on their dream, they should, “look straight, focus on your destiny and keep running”.
“Some people are very supportive in my neighbourhood. They usually give me positive comments like, ‘keep on running because you were born for it’. That inspires me a lot, it makes me run more and more,” said Uzukhanye.