In 1893, Lourens Meintjies became South Africa’s first world champion in any sport, winning the first cycling world championships held in Chicago over 50 miles. In 2013, 120 years later, Louis Meintjies punched the air as he crossed the line to take silver in the Under-23 road race world championships in Florence on Friday. It was a ride that showed wisdom beyond his 21 years, affirmation of his immense talent and promise.
It gave yet more voice to the “Africa Rising” mantra that has been growing in volume during perhaps the greatest-ever year for the sport on the “dark” continent. From Alan van Heerden to Willie Engelbrecht, from Robbie Hunter to Daryl Impey, from Songezo Jim to Chris Froome, from Meintjies to Meintjies, what began as a polite whisper is now a confident roar from Africa.
Today is my birthday. It is my birthday for the forty-somethingth time. Ageing does not worry me. I’ve been told I do not look my age, which is good. I certainly don’t act my age, which is both good and bad. I don’t feel my age, but then no one will admit to that. To do so would be to admit defeat to time and that would be to confess to the heinous crime of getting old, the most galling of all of humankind’s weaknesses.
Today should be a time for me to sit down and reflect, which is a trait of old people. The forever young do not reflect, unless they are a twilight vampire standing in the sun; the forever young skip, hop or trip into the next year of their lives with a half-full glass in hand and a generous lack of planning for the future.
Arguably the largest cheer at the Radium Beer Hall on Saturday morning was for Nick Mallett, former Springbok coach, SuperSport analyst and no fan of Romain Poite. As Jean de Villiers showed graciousness in the face of defeat and ineptness, Mallett was having none of it.
“This was an absolute disgrace. A match of this quality deserved to have 15 players on the field for the whole game. If Bismarck du Plessis had lifted and driven a player into the ground, if he had punched someone and kicked them on the ground, no excuses,” said Mallett. In the bar area of the Radium, the first shout of, “Yes, tell them, Nick!” rang out.
I may have got it wrong. I tweeted it took James Evans, the president of Athletics South Africa, all of five seconds to blame the media for the confusion around the Soweto Marathon on Talk Radio 702 yesterday morning. Joe Kirsten, a Blue Bulls fan, said he timed it at two seconds.
But then, the media, as Evans told Brad Brown, the broadcaster, on his podcast (runtalksa.co.za) this week, must get their “act together”. He said this several times. He then tried to say the same thing on the John Robbie Show yesterday morning.
On the wall of the La Torre del Oro bar on the Plaza Mayor in Madrid is a picture of a matador being gored in the throat by a bull. Sometimes, the bull wins, but he still loses. The bull, whose horn pierced through the throat of Julio Aparicio and exited through his mouth during the Festival of Saint Isidro at the Plaza de Toros las Ventas bullring in Madrid in 2010, was quickly killed by the other bullfighters.
Aparicio survived, with two operations needed to save his life. It’s a heck of a photograph to look at with a glass of beer and some free olives forced upon you in this famous bar. It is something of a tourist trap, but on the walls, hammered up around the mounted heads of seven massive bulls, are pictures of local celebrities and royalty. The locals like it, too. But, then, the locals also like seeing 500kg animals teased with a cape, stabbed with swords and then put to death.