There are more than 100 South African athletes on the competitive US college track and field circuit. South Africa needs to forge good relations with universities to harness this talent.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
When Riaan Dempers returned from his scholarship stint at the University of South Carolina, it was as a sought-after marketing and management graduate in the United States, having obtained his degree cum laude.
The significant drawback of that academic triumph was that it was achieved at the expense of a promising athletics career, Dempers having left South Africa with major championship title dreams and returned with Achilles tendon issues, which would lead to early retirement.
A mid-1990s sprint prodigy, Dempers had gone to the US to explore the ceiling of potential that had yielded personal bests of 20.16sec in the 200m – and 45.15sec in the full lap – by 18, the former time making him national record holder and the then fastest teenager in the world.
But a combination of an appendectomy during his first season, difficulty adjusting to the extra bends on indoor tracks and being run into the ground by unsympathetic handlers at the university saw the “Bullet…