Madibaz athletes Cherise Sims, Garth Ellis and Divan Manuel won three silvers and a bronze medal at the Confederation of Universities and College Sports Association Games (Cucsa) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, recently.
Sims, who grew up in East London, surpassed her own expectations by winning silver in the 5 000m and bronze in the 800m. Ellis and Manuel collected silvers in the high and long jump respectively.
The 23-year-old Sims was forced to focus on the 5 000m after her main event, the 3 000m steeplechase, was cancelled. She also entered the 800m, which she hadn’t run since high school.
In the 5 000m the part-time business management student found herself in second place with three laps to go, but unfortunately failed to catch the leader.
An even bigger surprise came in the unplanned middle-distance event in which she set up her podium position with a strong final 200m.
More than the medals, the NMMU athlete said she enjoyed meeting like-minded athletes and representing her country.
“The whole experience of putting on that kit that says ‘South Africa’ and actually representing your country was special.”
Sims is impressive off the track as well, cramming her studies and athletics training in with her physiotherapy job at Dora Nginza Hospital.
She said perseverance was key, but she was also appreciative of the support from the university that allowed her to travel to meets.
Manuel, who started out as a cross-country runner in the Boland, set several personal bests this season.
He credits much of his success to his Bestmed Madibaz Athletics Club coach Jenny Kingwill and said he found the Games challenging as she was in Italy preparing his occasional training partner, Rushwahl Samaai, for Rio.
Although it was hard to cope with studies, training and travelling, he said his lecturers were very supportive.
Ellis, a Port Elizabethan, was hoping for gold but the human movement science student said he was more than happy with his runner-up spot.
“It was quite a long season for me,” said Ellis, who has his sights set on the Word Student Games in Taipei next year.
“But I just continued with the same training,” which, he explained, consisted of technique, speed and strength work as well as plyometrics.
“You don’t change a winning recipe.”