Former Olympic silver-medallist, Hezekiel Sepeng will be involved with the Kaya FM 67km Relay for Mandela Day for another year this year. “Where I come from, there were not a lot of black people competing in a road race. When we used to train in the township, they used to ask us ‘what are you chasing!’ But now it’s really encouraging that the people of SA are serious about their training and running, as they prepare for the Kaya FM 67km Relay for Mandela Day,” he said.
Hezekiel, in his calm and humorous way, shared his thoughts on the Kaya FM 67km Relay for Mandela Day. “It is about sports entertainment. The teams really try to look good in colourful sports fashion, and the whole day ends with family entertainment. It is a great place to be,” he said.
Speaking about his most memorable Madiba Moment, Sepeng recounts his understanding of Nelson Mandela, and how the encounter of meeting him after the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games impacted him:
“I grew up in a farm area, where there was a mountain – and I always thought that if I got to the other side of the mountain, I would be overseas! Overseas was a concept I had heard and knew it was far away, but I didn’t understand. We later moved (overseas ) from the farm to the townships – and it was a huge contrast – with lots of fighting. This is where I first heard about Nelson Mandela and understood who he was.”
“After winning the silver medal in 1996, I received an official letter from the office of President Nelson Mandela to say congratulations on my victory. In my mind, I didn’t believe that Madiba had written that letter. I didn’t think he watched my race. I told myself, ‘he’s too busy’, and thought that his secretary must have written the letter and just asked him to sign it. When we came back home, we went to Madiba’s house – there were many of us, with Penny Heyns etc., and when I met him, he told me exactly what I had done wrong in the race, and talked me through every turn and every move I made and how I could have won that race. That’s when I thought ‘This one is serious!’ And I realised then that he had actually watched all our races!”
Addressing the captains at the Captains of the Kaya FM 67k Relay, Sepeng advised them to analyse their team mates.
“I have never wanted to be the starter of a relay, because I didn’t want to be blamed if something went wrong! If we lost the race, I would always say “Yes, but I found it like this already!’ What I am saying to each captain is, know your athletes. It’s always good to finish the race with your team members feeling proud of themselves, so place them in the positions that will allow them to do that. Put the fast ones in the front and at the back, and put the slower ones in the middle. You know your team – go back, observe them, and put them in the right legs,” concluded Sepeng.