Award Winner 2012
OUR UNSUNG SPORTS HEROES AND HEROINES
James Mokoka Athletics Dream Team of Sydney Maree, Rosina Sedibane Modiba and Lindi Chabangu.
James Mokoka, born in 1939, was a legendary athletics coach during the seventies and eighties. He singularly and incredulously annihilated sporting myths, that local blacks, particularly black females, could not run competitively against whites and that they were worse at international level. This inspired him to achieve undreamt of sporting milestones to prove the contrary.
James started athletics training and coaching in Soweto as a teacher and became a School Sports Organiser for the then City Council of Johannesburg, specialising in training girl athletes. He was later appointed Director of Athletics at the Sports Foundation of South Africa to work in Atteridgeville. He also became a board member of Athletics South Africa, President of Athletics Gauteng North, and eventually managed the South Africa Athletics Team at the Commonwealth Games, World Junior Championships and Montreal Olympics.
In the most amazing and spectacular way, James produced Atteridgeville women runners in Rosina Sedibane Modiba and Lindi Chabangu who eventually earned athletics national accolades unheard of for black ladies. He crowned it all by producing Sydney Maree, the golden miler who went on to compete twice in the Olympics for the USA because South Africa was then banned from international sporting competitions.
Lindi Chabangu, also a sprinter, became then the first and only black school girl who did the 100 meters hurdles and 200 meters flat. Rosina Sedibane Modiba ran the 800, 500 and 3 000 meters, and became the first black to win the then Northern Transvaal 800-meter race. She was captain of the athletics national squad and held records in 400, 800, 1 500 and 3 000 meters. She received her Springbok colours in 1978 as the first black gold medallist in 1 500m Provincial Championships. She was the 1986 National College Champion in 800m. Rosina Sedibane Sports School in Laudium is named after her.
Sydney Maree, who was then a student at the Vlakfontein Technical High School, Mamelodi but who lived in Atteridgeville, joined the girls to complete the dream team running the 800 and 1 500 meters. In 1976 he competed for the first time against whites and beat them during the South African Championship in Bloemfontein. When Sydney ran the fastest 1 500 meters, in Port Elizabeth, gates opened for him to go to the USA. Sydney became a permanent resident and citizen of the USA in 1984 and ran in the Olympics twice as an American. In 1981 he was honoured as South African Athlete of the Year and was later honoured by the new South African democratic government with the order of Ikhamanga in Silver.