20 May 2004
Many factors need to combine to produce peak performances from athletes. Some things can be controlled, others are beyond human control. Weather is one of those things.
Having the right training equipment, having the right facilities, having the right mental approach to sport helps athletes to excel. Having ideal conditions for sport is another huge factor in determining how successful an athlete will be.
South Africans have a great advantage because the country’s climate is a wonderful advertisement for the outdoor lifestyle. In recent years, top athletes from far afield have begun to discover how good it is, too.
Athletics stars like Maria Mutola, Kelly Holmes, Gabriela Szabo, Michael Johnson, Tim Montgomery and Frank Fredericks have used the country as a winter training base, and it has served them well.
The country’s climate encourages its people to get outside, to be active, to participate in some sort of sporting challenge.
And the list of available sports goes well beyond the country’s “big three” (rugby, soccer and cricket): try archery, angling, baseball, biathlon, bowls, canoeing, climbing, cycling, duathlon, equestrianism, freediving, inflatable boating, lifesaving, orienteering, polocrosse, rowing, snow sports, softball, swimming, triathlon, volleyball, waterskiing … the list goes on.
There’s enough variation in South Africa’s climate to allow for cold weather sports to be practised. The real winner, though, is definitely the country’s sunshine.
Some years back, when Alex Braun was media liaison manager for the Springboks, I managed to sit down with him and have a long chat. Braun is an Australian, and at that time Australia was, it seemed, winning nearly everything worldwide in a wide variety of sports.
I asked Braun why this was; his answer was that it lay in the sunny conditions Down Under. It made the people tough and hardnosed, he said, perfect attributes for top sportspeople.
Recently, while researching golf tourism in the country, I telephoned people at golf clubs around the country to find out what was attracting golfers to South Africa’s shores. One answer was given without fail: the country’s weather.
Golf estates have taken off in recent times, and especially in the coastal regions foreigners have been quick to snap up prime properties located alongside top class courses.
Top sports stars have got in on the act too. Golfing superstars Ernie Els and Nick Price own properties on the southern Cape coast, while Mount Edgcombe in Kwazulu-Natal is well known as home to many of rugby’s Sharks players.
It’s obvious: sport and the South African climate go hand-in-hand.