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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Meyer launches new club to tackle development of female elite athletes

After the success of the Endurocad Track Series, Elana Meyer has taken another step toward realising her ambition of creating the most proficient distance running and endurance sports academy in Africa. The Olympic silver medalist turned athletics administrator who birthed the Endurocad Academy has now added a running club to her arsenal. The Athletes Academy Club was officially launched on Wednesday 21 April at Canyon Café in Stellenbosch, with the aim of producing world class athletes on a consistent basis.

Meyer (right) and Nolene Comrad (left) congratulate athletes for good performances on the track at the launch of The Athletes Academy Club in Stellenbosch last month. Photo Credit: Endurocad.

That aim betrays the philosophy of an athlete who competed against and better the best. During her days as a top runner, Meyer set a world record over 15km and is still the holder of no less than five SA records over distances ranging from 3000m to the half marathon. "We had great meetings in those days and intense competition," she reveals when asked why South Africa struggles to produce the sort of world class female middle distance athletes that were in abundance a generation ago. "I was running against Zola (Budd) every week," she says.

Meyer during her days as a Top Runner running a race in Japan where she won several half marathons in particular. Photo Credit: Richard Fryer.

Putting into practice what she learnt during the eighties and early nineties, Meyer seems to have rediscovered the magic formula. On the 15th of March Kayla Jacobs jumped to eighth-fastest on the SA all-time list when she ran 15:43.41 in a 5000m race at one of the Endurocad meets. The fastest time run by a South African women in 14 years was achieved by a young lady who had started out as an Endurocad satellite runner when she was Kayla van Graan of Western Province Athletics (WPA), before trading WPA for Boland when she moved from Cape Town to Stellenbosch to be closer to Meyer.

Jacobs on her way to running a new 5000m personal best at last month's Endurocad Meet at the Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch. Photo Credit: David Papenfus.

The 1994 World Half Marathon champion wants to use the Athletes Academy Club to create more Kayla's. The club has big plans to develop young female talent through the establishment of an Elite Junior and u/23 female squad, which is intended to serve as a platform for young up-and-coming female athletes to gain experience, be empowered, as well as gain exposure in a competitive environment. To make sure that happens Meyer has enlisted the services of some notable female coaches including Tanya Carstens, Julie Longden and long time partner Nolene Conrad.

“I do believe in the talent of South African athletes but it's all financially driven," she explains when broached on the subject of whether or not her female development efforts can succeed where others have failed (especially when it comes to developing international standard track runners). "What the Spar Ladies 10km Grand Prix Series has to offer versus what one can gets on the track is very different. There's very little reward. Remember people have to make a living out of the sport. I'd like to see South Africa invest. You cannot develop the sport without investing. I'd like to see that change hugely that's why we have invested in female development," she concludes.

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