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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I'm very surprised at how I've turned out' - Lee-Sue Nyathi bags awards and looks forward to 2023

As 2022 comes to an end, awards ceremonies are in full swing around the country as schools, clubs and provincial federation rewards their best performers of the year. One young athlete who has had a busy last few days accepting both club and provincial awards is Lee-Sue Nyathi. The 14-year old race walker from Kwa-Thema township in Springs took home Central Gauteng Athletics’ Most Promising Athlete of The Year award while scooping a similar accolade at her Masai Athletics Club’s end-of-year function.

Nyathi pictured at her club's (Masai Athletic Club) end-of-year celebration, where she received an award for her excellent performances throughout 2022. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

“I’m not so sure how I feel about it, but I’m very surprised at how I’ve turned out,” she told #TheTopRunner at the CGA Awards. “My 2017 me wouldn’t think that I would come this far because I thought that this was just fun and games but now I see that this is serious to me now.”

That the Grade 9 learner at Queens College on the east of Johannesburg now sees a possible future for herself as a professional race walker shows just how far she has come. Nyathi was crowned South African sub-youth 5000m champion when she won the U16 girls title in a new record time of 25:42.81 at the Athletics South Africa Junior, Youth and Sub-Youth Championships at the McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom in April.

Nyathi poses with her coach Thabiso Tsagane at the CGA Awards. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

For this success she credits her coach Thabiso Tsagane. A former race walker himself who earned a bronze medal at the national race walking championships in the 20km walk two decades ago, Tsagane has been a long-time advocate for the highly technical discipline saying there is a lot of undiscovered race walking talent in South Africa’s townships.

“There’s a programme in CGA called the Race Walking 1 Hour Challenge,” said one of the province’s most accomplished race walking coaches. “As a young athlete myself, I followed that programme about 25 yers ago. It’s a very, very old programme where we scout race walkers. That’s the talent identification foundation for race walking. So once upon a time came a small little 9-year old girl to do race walking and I said that’s my child. That was Lee-Sue Nyathi.”

Nyathi also competes in cross country. Photo Credit: Central Gauteng Athletics Media.

The man who also discovered a young Lebogang Shange in Orange Farm had now discovered another gem in Lee-Sue Nyathi. Placing her at Queens College where he works as a coach, Nyathi blossomed this year winning no less than four 5000m races on the trac and the road. And it’s just the beginning for this coach and athlete combination that have set their sights on getting to the very top. “All we want to do now is to break records and she promised me that in six years time she is going to take me to the Olympics,” he smiled.

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