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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Vermaas opens athletics academy to serve Para athletes

Eleven years after he co-founded the Pierre Blignaut Shot put and Discus Academy, Eben Vermaas has decided to go it alone and start his own academy which will focus mostly on Para athletes. Vermaas who worked closely with Pierre Blignaut, one of the country's renowned athletics coaches, felt they had an incredible partnership which saw them mould multiple champions. For example, he two coaches made history together when two of their shot put athletes (Kyle Blignaut and Jason Van Rooyen) represented the country at 2020 Tokyo Olympics where Blignaut produced a heave of 21 meters to take sixth place.

Vermaas feels that he has served the Pierre Blignaut Academy well since its inception and it's time to move on. "When I co-founded the Pierre Blignaut Shot Put and Discus Academy, our aim back in 2011 was to uplift the sport through the coaching and development of athletes and coaches all over South Africa and even Namibia. We did just that and there are excellent results by athletes in those events in recent years with many athletes having being recruited by American Universities," he told #TheTopRunner.

After a decade-long partnership with Pierre Blignaut, Eben Vermaas is going solo to start his own throws academy. Photo Credit: Andries Kruger.

Now having launched the Smart Throwers Academy, Vermaas aims to make the sport more accessible by giving disable athletes in particular more recognition. One of the big names under Versmaas' watchful eye is Simone Kruger. The sensational Kruger represented South Africa at the Paralympics in 2021 where she finished 5th in the Discus F38 class identification.

"As an individual, I have always had a dream to work with people. It was only later when I started coaching that I decided to combine my dream of working with people with my passion for coaching. In the past, we have had a number of talented para-athletes training alongside our other athletes," he said.

17-year-old Simone Kruger who finished fifth at the Tokyo Paralympics and won gold at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships will be one of the main athletes to be coached by Eben Vermaas in his new academy. Photo Credit: Martin Potgieter.

"I soon realized that they had the same goals and dreams as our other athletes with the only difference being that they faced more challenges on a daily basis than our other athletes," explained the man who was appointed as the throws coach for the South African team that represented the country at the World U20 Championships in Colombia last August.

The Krugersdorp-based coach has big ambitions for his academy. "To become the Academy of choice not only for the abled athletes but also for the para-athletes. To provide them with with equal exposure and opportunities across the globe."

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