Cape Town - Viwe Jingqi is not your usual 17-year-old. Well, she is currently in matric at TuksSport High School, but that’s about the only regular thing about her.
Jingqi is remarkable, in more ways than one. I mean, who breaks a South African junior 100m record three times in a day?
That is exactly what she did at the national junior championships in Potchefstroom recently.
In the heat, she clocked 11.40 seconds, which beat her own mark of 11.47, set in February and surpassing the 38-year-old SA under-18 record of 11.56.
Then it was on to the semi-finals: 11.36. The best was left for last – in the final, she finished in 11.22, which was also a new SA under-20 mark, where Marcel Winkler had run 11.25 in 1989.
But the teenager from Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape wasn’t done yet. The next day, she conquered the 200m SA under-18 record in 23.03 seconds, exactly 40 years to the day that Evette de Klerk had set the previous mark of 23.30.
Tuks Sport said in a statement that only two other local women had run faster than Jingqi in the 100m and 200m since 2012 – Carina Horn (10.98) and Tebogo Mamathu (11.04) in the shorter sprint, and Justine Palframan (22.83) and Alyssa Conley (22.84) in the half-lap event.
“I did expect it, because in my last serious race that I ran in Ruimsig, I ran a record. So I was like, ‘It’s also possible’, even though I didn’t really put my mind into it. It just happened, so I was as surprised as everyone else,” Jingqi said in a TuksSport interview.
“For me, if I put my mind to it and tell myself I am going to do it, then I can do it. Also, I work very hard. Even at training, Coach Paul (Gorries) can also say it – very focused at training, and I make sure he fixes everything that I do wrong.
“I also have a positive mindset. If I want something and truly want it, I tell myself that I am going to do it, and I put a lot of effort into getting that thing. So, that’s what made me run all those records in one day. I told myself I want it, and how I am going to run it.”
The 200m record gave her real satisfaction, and a few things off the track is also driving her success – the passing of her brother Vukile last year, and wanting to make her family’s dreams come true.
“I wanted it very badly! It’s very special, to be honest… very. Even when everyone else was like ‘Wow, this record has been here for so many years, and yet such a young girl was able to break it’, I was so shocked!” Jingqi said.
“But to be honest, it’s stuff I’ve been working for since I started running. My coach back in the Eastern Cape used to tell me ‘You are going to break records one day’, and my father was like ‘If you could do what I couldn’t do, then I’ll be happy’.
“So, it’s what I’ve been working for – to actually do what my father (who was also a sprinter) couldn’t do – and to do it for myself and put my name and my family’s name on the map. The only thing that has been keeping me going is my background, actually.
“Where I come from, not a lot of girls can get to where I am, and not a lot of girls are interested in doing what I am doing. So, I have been pushing and I wanted to do something very special, and actually put my name in the history books of South Africa.
“My brother died in a car accident, on his way back to Cape Town for work. The only thing that has been hurting me about his death is the fact that I couldn’t say goodbye to him, when he left for Cape Town. It’s one of the things that, whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it for him, to make him happy.
“We were always discussing. We were very hard-working, and our parents (Zweledinga and Nothando) could see that if we could work together, then our family could live the life that we always wanted. So, I’m doing this for him actually.”
But Jingqi still has so much to achieve in her career. She wouldn’t mind emulating two of her role models, Caster Semenya and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. On Semenya, she said: “She is one of the people who inspire me in athletics, because of her character and how hard she works – and how special she is.”
Jingqi is planning to compete against senior athletes at the Athletics South Africa Grand Prix 4 meeting in Germiston on Wednesday, so she could go head-to-head with SA 100m record-holder Horn, who made her comeback from a two-year doping ban this past week in Potchefstroom with a victory in 11.50 seconds.
And then it’s on to the SA senior championships in Cape Town from April 21-23. Asked how much faster she could go, Jingqi said: “Before the end of this year, I want to run an 11.1. If I can get an 11.1, nothing is going to stop me. I am going to keep pushing, and maybe get the qualifying standards for the Olympics.
“In the 200m, a 22.8 would be very (great).
“(She wants to qualify for) Commonwealth Games I think… I am very scared to actually compete at seniors internationally. I think I will just start competing with seniors here in South Africa. Then I will see where I stand from there.”