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Cape Town - Sir Richard Branson popped in to pump iron with pupils at Lavender Hill High School on Thursday, where a small gym sponsored by Virgin Active has turned some of the boys into bodybuilders.
Branson spoke to a group of pupils about his flight from high school drop-out to multibillionaire.
“I didn’t have any money, but I loved creating things that other people wanted,” he said.
“I started with a small magazine, and selling records outside concert venues. And now I have an airline, and next year we’re going to have a spaceship company.”
A gasp ran through the rows of schoolchildren, followed by whistles and applause.
“When you’re at school, start thinking of little entrepreneurial ideas,” Branson said. “The lesson is, dream.”
He posed with the school’s bodybuilders, who flexed their muscles and helped spot him in the gym.
Celebrated former rugby player Ashwin Willemse also spoke to the pupils about his journey from the Cape Flats to the Springbok jersey.
“I never even thought I would go overseas,” he said.
“Who would have thought that a boy who was a drug addict and tried to commit suicide at 16 would not only be a Springbok rugby player but player of the year?”
He said that young people should not place limits on the possibilities for their futures.
“The gym is not only there to increase your biceps and triceps, but to make you dream,” he said.
The gym has only been open since last year, but principal Faseeg Manie said it had transformed his pupils.
“Our school has a bunch of learners who might be tempted into illicit activities like gangs and drug abuse. They need to be occupied in a constructive way,” he said.
“The gym counteracts the scourge of gangsterism and drugs.”
One such pupil was Rui Solomons, 18, who has won three first-place trophies for bodybuilding and represents Western Province. He is training for his South African colours in the school gym.
After the first month of working out, he noticed the changes in his body – and how he was treated by the older boys. Now he wants to make bodybuilding his career.
His 16-year-old brother, Bevon, is part of Rui’s motivation.
“The main competition is against myself, and against my brother,” he said. “I set him goals, then when he improves I have to work even harder to beat him.”
Bevon is also going for his South African colours next year. “Before this gym, we had only three weights and a few benches,” he said. “Now we’re going further.”
He trains for an hour after school, then another hour in the evening.
“I like my body,” he said. “The small ones look up to me.”
Cadet News Agency