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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Sometimes my father would train four times a day' - Zintle Mokoka as she remembers Bra Zet

While athletics lovers will remember him for his Herculean feats on the road, those close to him continue to hold the late Zithulele Sinqe in high regard because of the work he did to develop young athletes. Born in the Eastern cape in 1963, Sinqe made a name for himself as a fearsome marathon and half-marathon athlete during South Africa’s Golden Age of distance running. His 2:08:04 clocking to win the 1986 SA Marathon championships by just 11 seconds from Willie Mtolo and his 1:00:11 21km duel against Matthews Temane in 1987 (where they were given the same finishing time) will go down as arguably the best races in the country’s storied running history.

Sinqe in action during his heyday! Photo Credit: Zithulele Sinqe Foundation.

But it was what he chose to do after a stellar career that included the 1992 Olympic Games and back-to-back Two Oceans Marathon victories that was even more amazing. Sinqe chose to go to the townships and rural areas to unearth the next generation of top runners. “He believed that sport could take people out of poverty. He really believed that. He grew up in a family where seven of his siblings died of starvation. So what sport did for him is that it took him out of poverty and he believed it could do the same for other children coming from similar situations,” said his daughter Zintle Mokoka on the eve of the launch of the Zet Sinqe Series in August 2019.

Her decision to revive her father’s name by continuing his development work led to the formation of a partnership with Central Gauteng Athletics resulting in a series of mile and 5km races targeted at junior runners in the township and peri-urban areas. So even with the difficulties posed by organising a race during a pandemic, Zintle had little choice but to continue because she was doing it for Bra Zeth.

“Take for example our first race where we had to move our first series date and venue because of Covid related reasons, so it has been a bit of a challenge. But for me what’s important is that the race takes place and it’s only been possible through the support of M&M Marketing and Central Gauteng Athletics. They have been amazing,” she said.

That he passed away in a car accident on his way to coach youngsters in Balfour Mpumalanga in 2011, explains the dedication to development of a man who discovered former SA 1500m champion Folavio Sehohle. And Zintle is determined to keep that legacy alive through the establishment of the Zithulele Sinqe Foundation which runs the 5km and mile series. The first event of 2021 took place on the 26th of June after being delayed by a third wave of Covid19 infections, while the second is set for tomorrow at the Germistion Lake.

Zintle flanked by her brother (her right) and then CGA President James Moloi (left) at the launch of the Zet Sinqe Series in 2019. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

Mokoka hopes that this series will be used as a vehicle to teach junior athletes about the importance of hard work if they want to reach the lofty heights of the decorated former champion. “I think sacrifice was a big one when it comes to my dad. Sacrifice and hard work. My father believed in hard work. He had a slogan; no pain, no gain! At some point he was training four times a day. I remember sometimes during school holidays he would show me that,” she concluded.

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