'I had to make some sacrifices' - Miné de Klerk on the road to success
By adding yet another prestigious award to her already bulging trophy cabinet, Miné de Klerk has secured her status as one of the best junior athletes to come out of the country in the last decade. Rewarded for a magnificent 2021 that saw her win gold in the shot put and silver in the discus at the World U20 Championships, the 18-year old from Welkom has now added SA Sports Award laureate to her already impressive resume. de Klerk saw off cricketer Janneman Malan and Springbok Sevens Star Ronald Brown to take the Newcomer of The Year at a glitzy ceremony in Durban last weekend. And it's just the beginning for this promising talent.
"I started with shot put back in Grade 4 at the school inter house competition. I threw quite a big distance for someone who had never done the sport before and didn't have any experience. That's when my dad decided to start coaching me. In Grade 5 I qualified for my first SA Junior Championships. I was much smaller than the other girls but I went in with the mentality that I wanted to open with a big throw to put pressure on the other girls. I ended up winning and it felt so good that I started to cry," she told #TheTopRunner.
That was to be the beginning of a fledgling athletic career that would see her include both the javelin and the discuss in her throwing arsenal by the time she was in Grade 6. Her dominance on the Free State junior athletics circuit caught the eye of one of the biggest schools in the province. Goudveld Höerskool then recruited de Klerk as an U13 pupil with the view to polishing both her athletic and academic promise.
"When she was U15 she got a silver medal for javelin and gold for shot put and discus at the national junior championships. We decided that she should specialize and focus on her best events," explained Roxy Siebert who heads up the athletic programme at Goudveld. Still, even after dropping the javelin the demands of being an international junior athlete who also excelled in netball at a provincial level, while being appointed the school's Head Girl as well, means that she has had to learn early the value of time management.
"I just try and do my best every year. In the mornings I go to the gym and box, then I go to school and then do my homework with training after school. Some nights I would have to stay up late and do more homework or learn for tests," she smiled as she shared what is a punishing schedule for most 18-year olds. That she is able to accomplish all of this with a smile on her face has gained her the admiration of both her teachers and the student body.
"She is very humble and down-to-earth and to have our Head Girl achieve what she has in the year that we celebrate our 60th anniversary is great for the school," said Headmaster Paul Sauer. That potent combination of strong academics and world class athletic ability has earned de Klerk a scholarship from one of the biggest sporting universities in the United States. Later this year de Klerk will be leaving for the University of Oregon on America's West Coast to continue her tertiary studies.
Asked to give a word of advice to youngsters her age hoping to emulate her success, de Klerk displayed a maturity beyond her years. "I had to make some sacrifices. I could only visit my friends on the odd weekend when I would have free time. But then I suppose one has to make some sacrifices to achieve your dreams," she concluded.