Mokoka advises young athletes to strike a balance

Mokoka advises young athletes to strike a balance

South Africa’s accomplished marathon runner Stephen Mokoka has emphasized the importance of young athletes prioritizing their studies.

He advises them to secure a solid educational foundation, which can be a fall back when their athletics career comes to an end.

Mokoka, a veteran of three Olympic Games, shared with SABC Sport how his mother encouraged him to finish his Sports Management Degree at the Tshwane University of Technology before committing fully to running.

Currently the world record holder in the 50km ultra, Mokoka has also won the Cape Town Marathon on three occasions. He stresses the value of education in athletes‘ lives.


“At university level, we didn’t have clubs we were just running for a bursary. We embraced the joy of having to run so one can pay your tuition fees. Once we graduated, we decided that now it's time for us to give athletics an opportunity. So, I can say I'm grateful to my mom for saying go to school first, and then when I was done, she's like you can now do whatever you want to do, you can try this thing of athletics.”


Mokoka acknowledges that most athletes have stopped running and have joined the workforce because of little or no income from the sport, but with some education, things could be different.


“Most of the athletes that we used to run with some of them have even stopped and decided to look for work. So, I can say school is very important because it helps you in all aspects of running.”


Mokoka believes that many athletes hastily join club systems, which pushes them out of many events, including, at times, representing their country.


“Development is dying because athletes are rushing to get into the club system, which pushes athletes out. They run all over the country but don’t care about representing their country. To win an Olympic medal you are going to be decorated and set for the next four years until the next champion comes along. But now if you are going to be all over you stand a chance of taking away that opportunity.”

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