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'We need more role models that come from kasi' - Phora as he gives back

One of the most important arguments to emerge from the recent social media furore surrounding the racial makeup of South Africa's Olympic team, was the need for grassroots development of promising junior athletes. And while Team SA failed to produce an athletics medal at #Tokyo2021 for the first time in the nation's post-Apartheid history, Thapelo Phora remains positive about the wealth of talent that lies undiscovered in the country's townships.

Phora takes the youngsters through some speed and technique during the clinic in Mamelodi. Photo Credit: Thapelo Phora.

"Honestly I think the youngsters need people like myself. People that are willing to help them without expecting money from them. We need more role models that come from kasi to give the kids at least an hour of their time," said the man who made his Olympic debut in the Land of The Rising Sun in July. The 29-year old who says he would love to be a coach one day, was speaking after conducting a coaching clinic in his hometown of Mamelodi, Pretoria this weekend.

Phora's motivation for unearthing talent lies in the fact that he only discovered his during his late teens and has been left wondering what might have been, had he been groomed from an earlier age. "I loved running at a young age, but I never knew that I can get this far until I was much older when I was introduced to Tuks facilities. I cannot even imagine how far I would be if I had someone to help me at a younger age. That's one of the reasons why I want to help the young ones now," explained the man who reached the 400m semi-finals at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

Phora focuses before his race at the 2019 World Championships in Doha. Photo Credit: Thapelo Phora.

In training the young sprinters, the All-Africa Games silver medalist used what he learnt from his coach Nico van Heerden whom he regards as one of his main role models alongside Olympic 400m finalist Hendrick Mokganyetsi. And Phora was impressed with what he saw. "I saw a lot of talented youngsters, they only need someone to inspire them and help them not to give up on their dream. I decided to do it because I grew up in Mamelodi and the only thing I saw as a kid was older guys smoking, committing crime, drinking, doing drugs and the only sports activities we had was street soccer. So I want to change that because there's a lot of talent in Mamelodi," he said.

Phora's plan is to run the clinics on a monthly basis while trying to attract support from local grocery stores who can contribute food for the athletes to take home after training. "If we could host an athletics event in kasi for young ones then that's where we're gonna see all the talent. I'm hoping to get support from anywhere or anyone because right now my family are all in and they are supporting me. We need training equipment and maybe shops like Pick 'n Pay can help because I want all the kids to have something to eat after training," he concluded.

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