Athlone resident, Muriel Susa’s 44 years of dedicated service to disabled athletes has earned her a provincial Sport Legends Award.
Ms Susa, 67, was among 13 people who were honoured by the MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais at a ceremony in Paarl on Thursday December 14.
The Sport Legends Awards honour sports people from the Western Cape who have made a significant contribution to sport in South Africa over a number of years. The legends are all over the age of 55 and have played a pivotal role in shaping sport in the country. The 13 who were honoured, were selected from a total of 147 nominations.
Ms Susa started her career in athletics for the physically disabled in 1973, at the then Conradie hospital. She has coached nationally and internationally and represented the Western Province over the years as team manager. She still serves on the executive of Western Province Sport Association for the Physically Disabled (WPSAPD), and many of the athletes she coached reached the highest level of paralympic sport. Many of them have either gone on to become coaches or administrators.
This lifelong dedication and voluntary work all started when Ms Susa started caring for her neighbour, at the tender age of 14.
“My neighbour, the late Joey Coetzee, was born with polio, and he had to go to St Giles. After his parents died, my parents took him in, and I was tasked with caring for him. I accompanied him to St Giles for exercises, and later we started a sports group, called Unitie, which is still going strong today. I would not have known about St Giles if it was not for Joey. It is a social club for the physically disabled people. At Conradie hospital, I started coaching the basketball team,” Ms Susa said.
Over the years, she still held a full-time job, and did her coaching on a voluntary basis after-hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Looking back, Ms Susa said her proudest moment was when the late Terence de Bruin became the first person of colour to receive Springbok colours for basketball.
“I couldn’t stop crying. That was in 1977, when we took part in the first multi-racial games in the country. Over the years, I’ve had good support from my family, as I had to travel to other provinces, and my children were still small,” Ms Susa said.
Speaking about her award, she added: “This is a huge honour for me. I want to do this until I cannot anymore. Even if I can’t coach anymore, I will do administration. My work in sport paved the way for my community work. This accolade I received on behalf of our youth, as I strongly believe that a child in sport, is a child out of court.”
Ms Marais emphasised the importance of recognising sport legends in the Western Cape, saying: “There are many unsung heroes who made important contributions to sport in our province and country. It is important that we honour them and acknowledge the role that they played in promoting inclusivity. We also want to show the youth in our province what can be achieved through years of hard work.”