By Chamu Wilson –
It was a night to remember for Bloemfontein-based paralympic runner, Louzanne Coetzee, who walked away the biggest winner scooping three awards including the major one, the Sports Star of the Year, at the Free State Sports Awards ceremony held at the Free State Stadium on Friday (28 Sept) night.
Coetzee, was adjudged to be the best Sportswoman with a Disability in the province as well as being worthy of the Award for Excellence before the adjudicators decided that she had done enough to be the 2018 Sports Star of the Year.
An elated Coetzee could not hide her excitement and attributed her success to hard work and dedication.
“This is all a result of the hard work and dedication that I put into the sport. Nothing comes easy. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to be recognized by my province in this manner. It’s a huge motivation.” Coetzee said.
Golfer, Wilco Nienaber, walked away as the Sportsman of the Year while netball player, Karla Pretorius, was judged the Sportswoman of the Year. Paralympic swimmer, Johan Van Heerden, took the Sportsman of the Year with Disability accolade.
After missing out on the prize last year, the gods finally smiled on Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies soccer team who were adjudged as the Team of the Year, shrugging off the challenge of Mustangs Rugby team and Free State Badminton team.
The province also honoured two great sports personalities in Jules Venter and Jabulane Khethelo. A gymnast of note, 80-year Venter dedicated almost her entire life to developing gymnastics as a sport in the province and the whole country. After calling time on her career, Venter took up coaching and later found herself taking up management roles for both the Free State as well as South Africa.
She will always be remembered for assisting the growth of the sport in previously disadvantaged areas such as Thaba Nchu. Venter retired from managing the Free State Gymnastic Association in 2009.
“I am at loss for words. This honour means so much to me and the sport in general. I wish other great sports people will be awarded the same honour as me,” said Venter.
Khethelo was honoured with the Green Jacket for his vast involvement in sports in the province. Born in 1940 in Mangaung, the veteran sports administrator was involved in the formation of Bloemfontein Celtic and played such sports as softball, football and golf (which he stills plays).
He owns Mangaung United, a soccer club based in Mangaung. He has also been involved in mobilizing funds for the construction of Mangaung Indoor Sports Centre, Bloemanda Swimming Pool as well as the upgrading of Seeisa Ramabodu Stadium and Johnson Bandile Stadium.
Khethelo was the Stakeholder Liaison Officer for the 2010 FIFA World Cup which was staged in South Africa. He has also fought for transformation in sports, especially in rugby.
Other winners on the night include volleyball’s Kamohelo Mokoena as Administrator of the Year; Newcomer of the Year, athlete Nicole Louw; Coach of the Year which was won by MC Olivier; female soccer match official, Maneo Evodia Tau as the Volunteer of the Year; Indigenous Games Star of the Year, Colisile Sephokoana; Federation of the Year, SAFA Free State; School Team of the Year, St. Andrews High School while Lesaoana Primary School was honoured as the Developing School Team of the Year.
Speaking on behalf of the Free State MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Mathabo Leeto, the Head of Department (HOD), Stanley Malope, underscored the importance of sport in social cohesion.
“It is only through sports that our young people will learn and appreciate that it is not cool to abuse drugs and get involved in gangsterism. Sport also unites people of different social, economic or political backgrounds hence it is important for social cohesion. We need to believe in the power of sport to deliver in and on peace building, peace keeping, social cohesion and nation building,” Malope said.