IOL athletics writer Ockert de Villiers.
Patience. One of the key ingredients to sporting success and something that can make or break a career.

Many promising careers have ended prematurely which naturally leads to the question of: "What if?"

Last weekend Carina Horn made a magical breakthrough which would not have been possible if she did not possess that dogged determination to succeed.

Horn became the first South African woman to duck under 11 seconds over the 100-metre sprint and one can only hope it will create a snowball effect.

Her success did not happen overnight and she had to graft pretty damn hard to get to this point almost a year away from reaching her 30th birthday.

The handful of female athletes  and I guess it is probably true for most sports people - who perform on the international stage are the ones that have showed patience.

Carina Horn finally broke through the 11-second barrier in the 100m. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

It also requires a fair bit of bravery to keep plugging away when the rewards seem minute and the sacrifices are large.

One only needs to look at the South African women who won medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as a case in point.

One-lap hurdler Wenda Nel, who is three months away from turning 30, made her breakthrough last month by winning the bronze medal at the Games.

She sacrificed her job to focus purely on her track career and is only now reaping the benefits of what would have been a tough decision.

Wenda Nel reacts after her third place finish in the women's 400m hurdles final. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Nel and Horn may not possess heaps of talent, but they are two of the most hard-working athletes you will find on South African soil or abroad.

Weightlifter Mona Pretorius had to wait until her fourth appearance at the Commonwealth Games to finally step onto the podium.

She has been at it for close to two-thirds of her life, and had to leave her family and friends behind to be close to her coach in the United States in pursuit of her dreams.

Sunette Viljoen is perhaps the epitome of determination, winning her fourth medal in as many appearances at the Games.

While Caster Semenya burst onto the scene as a teenager she only started reaching her full potential nine years later by winning the world 800m gold in Berlin in 2009.

Mona Pretorius during her clean and jerk at the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

These women should be commended for keep plugging away when support for female athletes is generally lacking in South Africa.

They don’t receive the recognition they so richly deserve and it is about time that we find ways to give them moral and financial support.

The South African federations need to do some serious introspection about how to bring about gender parity in sport.

Women were massively unrepresented at the recent Commonwealth Games, perpetuating the idea that the boy child is more revered than the girl.

The appointment of Tokozile Xasa as South Africa’s first female Sports Minister is certainly a step in the right direction.

Xasa this week announced she had appointed a reference group that will be developing women in sports policy.

This will hopefully provide some sort of blueprint on how we can promote female participation in sport and lead to greater gender equity.


Saturday Star

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