Local full-time runners say they are struggling to make a professional career out of athletics because of a lack of support. In the photo is Lutendo Mapoto, who won a gold medal after finishing in the 10th place at the Comrades ultra-marathon three months ago. Photo supplied.
For most athletes, competing in events such as the Olympics is the pinnacle of success, yet many, especially those from rural areas, suffer from the financial burden of getting there. Acclaimed Olympic athletes such as Lutendo Mapoto, Peter Muthubi, and Lucas Nonyana say that, without competitions to help them along financially, they feel the squeeze of getting by, and competing in competitions requires funding.
Mapoto, Muthubi and Nonyana are professional gold medallist ultra-marathon runners from the Muwaweni area. They lament that they are facing serious financial pressure as they train for the various competitions such as the Cape Peninsula Marathon (42.2km) and the Two Oceans Marathon (56km), and do not know where to find support.
Mapoto, who won a gold medal after finishing in the 10th place in the Comrades ultra-marathon three months ago, says he is losing hope. “As we are coming from Covid-19, training gear such as running shoes is more expensive and for a full-time runner it is even worse as our shoes have to be replaced more often,” he said.
Mapoto claims that all three of them have approached the Makhado Municipality, as well as the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, but that they have never received any support from them – even with the potential they showed to put Vhembe on the map.
“I tried my level best to request for sponsorship from our municipality and sports department, but with no success,” Mapoto said.
These athletes say they do not even feel that they can be an inspiration to aspiring runners.
Another top Vhembe runner, Bethuel Netshifhefhe from Dididi, said that pursuing sport as a full-time athlete left them in dire financial straits.
“As full-time runners who don’t earn other salaries, we are not getting any support in the form of sponsorships, so we use money from our pockets for transport and accommodation when we compete,” he said.
Mr Kenny Mathivha, the spokesperson of the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, said the reason why so many local athletes were facing these challenges was because of a lack of knowledge regarding the getting of sponsorships.
“These athletes must know whom to approach to get sponsorships. I would firstly like to urge them to join organised athletics bodies and approach the Limpopo Sports Confederation for assistance,” he said.
Date:23 December 2022
Thembi Siaga started as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people. Currently he works as a freelance journalist, covering stories in the Elim area.
Thembi studied at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he completed his diploma in Journalism in 2021.