Talented teenager gets funding to help realise her dream | SASCOC - SASCOC

Talented teenager gets funding to help realise her dream

An internet story about Irene van Niekerk, 15, a talented middle distance athlete who lives in an informal settlement in Gauteng, has resulted in Americans donating more than R20,000 towards her athletics future, writes Wessel Oosthuizen.
The story was written by Dr Skip Moen from the US and founder of At God’s Table who also posted an interview with the young athlete on YouTube.

ÔÇ£When I was teaching in South Africa, I wanted to help people who live in the camps and that was where I met Irene and asked my worldwide reading community to assist her,ÔÇØ Moen said. Moen’s web site is skipmoen.com.

ÔÇ£When the story was forwarded to me, I saw a young athlete with raw talent who has won 32 gold medals over the past two years and I decided to investigate the matter,ÔÇØ Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) said.

He immediately drove out to Coronation Park, Krugersdorp to interview the teenager, her parents and the family’s pastor, Lourens Groenewald.

The family was surprised to see Sam at their temporary home,┬áeven more surprised when the former schoolteacher spoke to them in Afrikaans. ÔÇ£I am not here because of where you live, but I am here for Irene, the athlete,ÔÇØ he told the parents.

He said that obviously everybody would like to concentrate on where Irene comes from, but it is more important that the emphasis should be on her as an athlete and where she is going. The teenager runs barefoot and lost her toes when boiling water was accidently spilled on her when she was a toddler.

Sam said that he will discuss the matter with a top coach at the University of Johannesburg and will also investigate whether she qualifies to run in Paralympic events. Irene missed out on the South African championships this year as she cut her toe just before the event.

Yesterday she also received special ÔÇ£socksÔÇØ to wear inside her shoes. ÔÇ£My dream is to run on television and for Oscar Pistorius to coach me, because he can run so fast. I also have a diploma for playing in the Krugersdorp Harlequins Under-9 rugby team and I also take part in swimming galas,ÔÇØ she said.

Since the story reached South Africa, newspapers from far and wide contacted the family for interviews. The Russian television news channel, RT, also requested an interview.


Something tells me that I need to help. I do not always help these people but I am forced by some inner need to do this, I am not rich, but I feel that this little woman will force changes in our country. Please forward me banking details.