As a man of many talents, Rocco van Rooyen has had to outwit, outplay and outlast his opponents for most of his life.
The current South African national javelin champion is a finalist in the Mr SA pageant and a cast member of the upcoming season of Survivor South Africa.
By his own admission, the 26-year-old loves a good competition and taking on challenges. On Survivor, he said: “I wanted to push my boundaries and see how I can survive physical elements of suffering like hunger, lack of sleep etc.”
Van Rooyen “just decided” to enter the Mr SA pageant. “I believe I’m a good ambassador for SA and can make a stronger positive impact with a bigger platform. I’m very happy and excited.”
The soft-spoken Stellenberg resident aspires to be a role model and has suffered numerous setbacks in his athletics career. The two-time javelin SA champion has had four major injuries since 2010.
Van Rooyen said he kept asking: “why me?” “I was hit hard and sought perspective to try to keep on fighting. I don’t even know what kept me going through it all. The grace of God. The love for sport and competing and intense training.”
Between 2010 and 2013, he suffered from a ligament tear in his right elbow.
In December 2016, he went for arthroscopy due to excess scar tissue and removal of broken pieces of splintered bones. This kept him out for four months.
In September 2017, he went for another arthroscopy – on his left leg. Doctors removed a broken piece of bone and ground the other places smooth where it broke off and caused damage.
In April 2018, he went for another elbow arthroscopy, cutting away excess scar tissue from inside.
Despite this, he won the gold medal at the CAA African Junior Championships in Botswana in 2011.
At senior level, he competed at the 2015 Commonwealth Games, where he finished sixth. He also represented the country at the 2015 and 2017 IAAF World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
“I’ve been injured 50% of the time in the past nine years. Everyone’s path is different and we just need to make the most of what we’ve been given to work with in life,” said Van Rooyen.
“This is my passion and this is how my walk with God started, so it’s very special to me to pursue this journey.”
More recently, Van Rooyen bagged gold medal in the javelin event with a season best of 77.82m at the ASA senior and combined events championships in Germiston.
He was followed by Athletics Central North West’s Johann Grobler and Athletics Gauteng North’s Tobie Holzhausen.
The field also included Jano Esterhuizen, who claimed first place in the javelin event at the African Youth Games in Algeria last year.
“It was such a great internal victory as only I truly know the crazy ups and downs I have gone through physically, emotionally and mentally.
“This win means the world to me and is yet another instance where I saw that when you don’t give up, the victory will eventually follow,” said Van Rooyen.
“Nationals are always intense.
“Everyone wants to win.”