Club grooms pupils for school athletics

Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus Mckenzie with Riyaad Avontuur, chairman of the Bonteheuwel Central Athletics Club.

A former drug addict from Bonteheuwel has started an athletics club to steer youth away from gangs and drug.

Riyaad Avontuur says he started the Bonteheuwel Central Athletics Club in September last year after seeing how many children were not trained to compete in school athletics.

The group practises at Cedar Primary School on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4.30pm to 6pm and on Saturdays from 9am to noon. They participate in 60, 80, 100, and 200 metre hurdles and relay races.

“We also educate them about what they should eat and what they shouldn’t, so that they can perform well at training,” Mr Avontuur said. “The children are very excited because they are prepared to compete in the school athletics next year.”

The group started with four children and now has 50 aged 7 to 18.

Mr Avontuur said his daughter, an avid runner, had inspired him to start the club.

The children were now running faster and becoming more aware of their talents, he said.

“The under-7s and under-9s can now do their race in 13 to 15 seconds and the under-14s a 100m sprint in 12 seconds.”

But the group needs donations of sweaters, training shoes, tracksuits, water bottles, and athletic gear to keep going.

“The children have so much talent, they just need to be recognised and shown that they too can achieve what other children from different areas can,” Mr Avontuur said.

The club will hold an athletics day on Wednesday May 1 at Cedar Primary School, from 9am.

“I want to use this to keep them occupied and give them the opportunity to go places and not join gangs or do drugs.

“The kids are enjoying it, and they want to become something bigger. I have been clean now for 480 days, and I wouldn’t want one of them to get involved with drugs,” he said.

Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus Mckenzie said the initiative was much needed in the area.

“It’s high time that someone takes note of the talents within our communities. Many times there is no one there to nurture or guide it, so I take my hat off to Riyaad who is willing to make the sacrifice and commitment and who pushes the boundaries to make sure that our kids are given all the opportunities they could possibly get.

“He has gone through so many hurdles, and he has made a huge achievement already by starting this club,” he said.

To make donations call Riyaad Avontuur at 078 307 0508.