'It shows that I can fight and still finish top three' - Richardson's bronze good for Gauteng Awards
Not since Caster Semenya was voted as the Sports Personality of the Year by the public, has a senior athlete made a significant impact on the Gauteng Sports Awards (GSA). And following disappointing performances at the 2021 Olympic Games and the 2022 World Athletics Championships where athletics failed to produce a single medal in both competitions, the status quo is expected to continue when this year's awards winners are announced at a gala ceremony in November. But the same is not true for junior athletes where Athletics South Africa (ASA) can be proud of its youngsters achievements.
During the judging period of 1 August 2021 to 31 August 2022, South Africa participated in two World Athletics U20 Championships competitions returning with nine medals from Nairobi 2021 and five when they took part in Cali, Colombia last month. Of that total of fourteen medals in two championships, Benjamin Richardson was a repeat offender taking three medals in two years. The 18-year-old Tuks High School Matriculant won gold as part of the 4x100m relay team that set a new world U20 record in Kenya (38.51), silver in the individual 100m (10.28) in East Africa and then a hard fought bronze medal in the 100m (10.12) in Colombia this year.
"I don't feel that great, but also good," said the lanky sprinter after returning with a bronze medal when he had wanted to win the title which was claimed by Botswana's Tebogo Letsile in an emphatic 9.91. "It's not one of the best races I ever had but I do wanna remember it because I had a very bad start, so this is a medal I really had to fight for. It shows that no matter what happens I can fight and still finish top three. So I'm happy about that," explained the youngster who first made an impact as a future champion at Nelspruit Primary School where he was also a promising rugby player and cricketer.
And the fact that Richardson who is coached by Paul Gorries, is originally from Mpumalanga doesn't mean that he can't be nominated for or win Gauteng's Most Promising athlete of the Year award because as Gauteng Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC Mbali Hlophe sees it, the province prides itself on being The Home of Champions by recruiting and polishing raw talent from other parts of the country.
"If you think about it, raw talent comes from other provinces - organic talent. But this is where they are nurtured and their talent is taken to the next level. And we can mention many of them. I know Limpopo likes to claim Caster Semenya - yes she is born there but we can claim that her talent was nurtured here. And there are many others like her," said Hlophe when the 2022 awards were launched last month.
It means that Benji along with Benoni's Lythe Pillay who won gold in the 400m in Colombia are suitable candidates not only to be nominated for as Gauteng's most promising athletes, but also to win the awards after putting the province and South Africa on the world map as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to young sprinters. Gauteng residents and sporting bodies/federations are urged to nominate Gauteng based-candidates in the 20 categories for consideration by the closing date of 16 September 2022 at 16:00.