• Charles Baloyi

Soweto Marathon Trust pay tribute to Chuene

The Soweto Marathon Trust has revealed that they were planning to invite late Athletics South Africa President Leonard Chuene, to attend the people's marathon as a guest of honour. But the legendary sports administrator lost his battle with cancer on Friday.

Chuene (68) who drew his last breath on New Year's Day, was one of the founding members of the People's Race.


Members of the Soweto Marathon Trust and Old Mutual team celebrate a successful race in November 2016. Photo Credit: Soweto Marathon.

While the first race in 1991 only attracted 80 runners, Soweto has grown to a field of 40 000 participants thanks in part to the pioneering work of Chuene and others. Chairman of the Soweto Marathon Trust Sello Khunou sent his condolences to his family saying the People's Race is grateful for the contribution that the fallen giant made to one of the country's most loved marathons.

" It's a sad day for South African athletics. He was a tiger and brought change to the sport. He brought equality to Athletics," said a sad Khunou. Also the founding president of ASA, Chuene led the federation from 1995 until 2011 when his handling of the Caster Semenya gender saga saw him booted the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and slapped with a seven year ban.


Soweto Marathon Trust Chairperson Sello Khunou. Photo Credit: Soweto Marathon.

The sometimes controversial Chuene was criticized for allegedly lied about the gender verification test conducted on Semenya ahead of the 2009 IAAF world champs in Berlin 2009. But despite how those events may have tainted his legacy, many will remember Chuene as one of the best sports administrators in Mzansi during his time. Khunou said it pains him that people choose to remember him this way rather than for what he did for the sport.


Late former ASA Boss Leonard Chuene pictured here at a Diepkloof Athletic Club function in 2017. Chuene served as DAC chairman for many years. Photo Credit: Diepkloof Athletic Club.

" Mistakes will always overshadow you as a person. No one is perfect. Jesus told the people in the Bible that he who has no sin should cast the stone first. But no one did. But why should we judge a person by their mistakes?" asked Khunou.The modest administrator said people like Chuene would forever be associated with the People's Marathon. "He was part of the group that formed the Soweto Marathon. It is painful to see that he is gone. Together with his former CEO Banele Sindane, they fought for ASA to be where it is today. They were instrumental in bringing transformation to the sport," explained Khunou.


Khunou recalls how they regularly attended Soweto running Club meetings together. "The Northern suburbs clubs voted us out whenever we wanted to come up with an idea to better ourselves. We decided to come up with the idea to start the Soweto Marathon, and he contributed to its formation in a big way. We will never forget him. He is the reason why the People's Race exists today. The plan was to invite him to come and be a guest of honour because he is one of us. I wanted to sit down with him and chat about the difficulties we experienced to form the marathon. It is not too late to honour him. We will see what we can do going forward," added Khunou.


Thousands of runners enjoying the 2017 Soweto Marathon which started with just 80 participants in 1991. Photo Credit: Soweto Marathon.

A drive-by memorial service will be held for Chuene in Mondeor, in the south of Johannesburg today. His family has asked for space and privacy to mourn him. " It was sudden. The family is still hurting. We are still coming to terms with losing him. We loved our father and did not expect him to pass away," said his son Titus.

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