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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Big night for Athletics as van Vuuren, Reyneke and SPAR win at Gauteng Sports Awards

When Jovan van Vuuren's was named as the 2022 Gauteng Sports Awards Sportsman of the Year, the long jumper looked the picture of calm when he ascended the stage to collect his award from the premier of the province Ntate Panyaza Lesufi. But the man who won the bronze medal at last year's Commonwealth Games has told #TheTopRunner that he was actually a ball of nerves which is why his acceptance speech had all those who had attended the glitzy awards ceremony at the Tshwane University of Technology's Soshanguve Campus in stitches.

"Thank God for this talent, thank my federation (Athletics Gauteng North). Mr Hendrick Mokganyetsi (AGN President) I saw him sitting there holding thumbs for me. I thank my parents, my loved-ones and my friends." But it was what he said next that even drew a cheeky comment from SABC presenter and host of the awards Andile Ngcobo. "And thank you to myself. Thank you."

van Vuuren had an amazing season and is now the country's foremost long jumper. Photo Credit: Supplied.

That he was nervous reveals how much the award actually meant to the man who enjoyed a breakout year in 2022. In addition to claiming the bronze medal in Birmingham, the 26-year-old Tuks athlete also set a personal best of 8.16 last March before going to win a maiden national title at the ASA Senior Track and Field Championships in Cape Town the following month. Yet with all those achievements under his belt, the man who is coached by Neil Cornelius still wasn't sure he'd be crowned the best sportsman in the province.

"I went in with an open mind. I said to myself you gonna have to come second or be okay with losing the award. So when they announced my name I was quite overwhelmed. When you get on that stage you already have a speech in your head but when you get on that stage I was like - just don't cry man, just don't cry," he laughed. "I think for the track and field family, I've represented them well. Going against an Olympic swimmer, a very talented Pieter Coetzee and an equestrian athlete I was shocked to win."

Reynecke (centre) won the coach of the year award. The accomplished hurdles coach has been in the game for 35 years and been part of numerous teams that have represented South Africa at global competitions. Photo Credit: Trevlyn Mayo Palframan.

In addition to van Vuuren's triumph, there was more success for the athletics family at the awards. Legendary sprint hurdles coach Irma Reyneke took the coach of the year award while Retha Ingenbleek accepted the Online virtual sport and recreation programme of the year award on behalf of SPAR's for the SPAR Virtual Challenge.

The proceeds from the SPAR Virtual Challenge went to victims of crime through the organization's #iRISE campaign, a movement which aims to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of communities and help them rise above the challenges they face. "The scourge of violent crime affects all our communities, ripping families apart. We mourn the loss of every life due to crime and call on communities to support each other to rise above these challenges. It is through these entries that we are in the position to assist where help is needed."

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