TRACK and field is more than winning medals and accolades, but rather a journey to success for one of South Africa’s top female junior athletes.
Antoinette van der Merwe, 19, made her intentions clear earlier this year when she clocked a personal best of 11.49 seconds in the 100m sprint event at the Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) Youth, Junior and Senior Track and Field Championships in Pretoria.
The young track star’s time was the fastest by a junior female athlete in SA this year and second fastest in the SA senior women’s section.
Her stellar performances have resulted in 95 full scholarships from US-based universities.
The Pretoria resident said: “It was very unexpected. I am extremely excited and overwhelmed about the possibilities. The assistance World Wide Scholarships (WWS) has given me in exploring these scholarships has been amazing. They have arranged for me to talk to some of the world’s best coaches and just being part of such an experience has been fantastic. Education is important to me and a key element of my future.”
Van der Merwe had her eyes set on performing well at the Athletics South Africa (ASA) Under-16, U18 and U20 Track and Field Championships and qualifying for the World Athletics U20 Championships this year. However, both events were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year, the versatile athlete finished in second place in the Girls U20 100m hurdles and 200m sprint events at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) African Youth and Junior Championships in Ivory Coast. In December 2018, she ran a personal best of 23.90 seconds to claim the gold medal in the 200m sprint and walked away with a gold in the 100m hurdles at the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 U20 Games in Botswana.
“During the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions I have been more aware than ever how much I love running and competing. Athletics is so much more than all the achievements for me, it is a way of just enjoying the talent to race that God has given me. Not being able to run during lockdown gave me a new perspective on just how much I treasure being part of athletics,” added the University of Pretoria first-year BCom Law student.
Chief executive of World Wide Scholarships Munya Maraire said: “Antoinette will likely have her pick of the world’s top universities to further her studies and train alongside other elite athletes. WWS facilitates such opportunities for local athletes in order to give them maximum opportunities to make the most of their talent. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division in the US is well known as the world’s most competitive stage for top athletes.”
Her coach, Wimpie Nel, said Antoinette was a true champion.
“I am proud of her performances on the track but prouder of the person she has become. Antoinette has gradually developed into the superstar athlete she is today. She is very humble and a true role model to the younger generation,” she said.