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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'He shared his knowledge freely' - The late Oom Pierre Blignaut celebrated for his contribution to shot put & discuss

In a country where shot put and discus throw are not the dominant track and field discipline, one man made a name for himself by putting these events on the national athletics map. The late Pierre Blignaut dedicated over three decades of his life to sharpening rough diamonds into future champions. Amongst the big-name athletes he produced are Kyle Blignaut who took sixth place in the shot put at the 2021 Olympics Games, Jason Van Rooyen who was also part of Team SA at the same Olympics in Tokyo, and Simone Kruger, a Paralympian who set a discus world record in the F38 classification.


 Although Bliganut's passing in December after a fight against cancer leaves a huge hole in the South African athletics community, the people whose lives he touched will have an opportunity to celebrate his highly decorated life in a memorial service scheduled for Friday 5th of January in Krugersdorp, Johannesburg. For Eben Versmaas, the death of Blignaut leaves a big hole to fill in his heart. The pair  met 17 years ago as Vermaas was beginning his coaching career. 



"Pierre, or Oom Pierre as he was more widely known as, played an integral part in the development of so many athletes and coaches in South Africa," explains Versmaas who now owns a Smart Throwers Academy. "17 years ago, he did the same for me and chose to be a mentor to me, when I was only starting out as a coach. We developed a friendship that saw us establishing the Pierre Blignaut Shot Put & Discus Academy, the first Academy of its kind on the South African Athletics landscape and through the years our friendship grew into a father and son relationship." 


Vermaas revealed that even though he had been aware of his mentor's battle against cancer for a long time, his passing has been difficult to come to terms with. "Even though Pierre made a self-diagnosis during a joint Academy coaching session and disclosed it to me way back in 2016, it still came as a huge shock to me when it was confirmed by medical professionals. Even though Oom Pierre made a valiant effort in his fight against the big "C", it was extremely hard for me to see him losing ground at the end. So even though I'm deeply saddened by his departure, knowing the hardships he had to endure during the last year of his life, makes it easier to process." 


Vermaas says Blignaut's passing has left a huge whole in South African athletics. Photo Credit: Andries Kruger.

For many, Blignaut's passing comes as a blow because of the extensive knowledge and experience that goes with him. Vermaas describes Blignaut as a selfless individual who was passionate about sport, saying he will be remembered most for all the knowledge that he shared and what he did to help others achieve their goals.


"Oom Pierre was an extremely passionate individual with lots of empathy for others. He was a perfectionist in almost all aspects of life especially in sport and more importantly, shot put and discus. He shared his knowledge of shot put and discus freely with everyone across the country and made a conscious effort to get to know his athletes, colleagues and their families. His involvement with his athletes stretched much further than just the obvious which was coaching. He also arranged university scholarships and even employment for some of his senior athletes," he said.

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