“Not just granny, guys.” Gertruida raises her glass. ” great-grandmother. Of four, for good measure. She should get something for this…the Order of Tafelberg or something.”
“Ja, maybe the Van Riebeeck Medal.” Servaas is his old cynical self again. “If old Jan didn’t stop at the Cape, there would have been no Botha’s or Van Niekerks. It’s all his fault, as usual. That man should be held accountable – or honoured, depending on how you see history.”
“You think Zuma and company will mention our old history when he congratulates the athlete? Of course not! After the beating they took at the polls recently, they’ll be oh so proud of this son of the African soil. For once they’ll leave Van Riebeeck out of this and try to use his achievements to divert attention away from corruption and Nkandla.”
“Be that as it may, I think Tannie Ans deserves a pat on the shoulder. Most people at her age seem to consider their lives spent. She has shown us what Golden Years should be all about: not the steady decline into oblivion, but reaching for gold at the Olympics.” Gertruida sighs happily – she just loves a feel-good story. “Can you imagine how proud she must be? A crowning achievement on 50 years of coaching athletics! Wow! ”
“Ja, that’s great. But tell me: how did she do it?”
“In a very un-South African way, Servaas. She is a strict disciplinarian. Her athletes have to stick to her rules and follow her guidance. Add to that the fact that very few people actually know much about the old lady, and you have an unique mix of experience, humility, strength of character and ambition. Not many of these characteristics are common in parliament, but she has them all.
“The funny thing is: her athletes love it. They don’t go about protesting that the Olympics is a colonial thing or that disadvantaged athletes must get a head start. No quibbling about starting in Lane 8, just because you feel discriminated against. You get what you achieve through hard work; many, many hours of training and quite a number of setbacks. You listen to good advice and stick to strict schedules.
“So, hats off to Wayde – he’s done what no man has ever done before…ever! That is surely something we all can admire and respect. But to me, guys, Tannie Ans is an example of what people in this country should strive for: we have to help each other to help ourselves. She actually acknowledges that she stays so young because of her athletes: as much as she inspires them, so much they do for her. It’s give and take, no excuses and no holds barred. For that, she deserves her own gold medal.”
“I disagree.” Servaas knits his bushy brows together in a mischievous frown when Gertruida stares at him.
“Why on earth for?”
“She’s not just an example for old and young in South Africa, Gertruida. She’s a case in point for the whole world. I think there are many races in Life, Gertruida – some span the passage of many years, others take only a few seconds. Not all of them get rewarded with medals, either. Now, when I listen to you, I realise how special it must be to wait fifty long, hard, coaching years to get to that gold medal in Rio. Can you imagine the effort, the successes, the failures, the heartache and joy those years must have held?
“She might be a great coach, but there’s something more: she’s an inspiration – to me, to older people and to so many young people who still have the courage to dream.”
Gertruida smiles, nods and orders a new round. “We have a new golden boy in South African athletics and we are so very proud of what he’s done. Now Tannie Ans must guide him gently in the arena of fame he now enters. I’m sure she will.”
Vetfaan bangs open the door to Boggel’s Place, his eyes wide with excitement.
“Have you heard? It’s absolutely amazing!”
“”It is, Vetfaan. Come on, sit down. We’re about to drink a toast to Tannie Ans.”
“Ans? Ans? What are you talking about? Wayde just broke…”
Gertruida’s smile widens. “My point, exactly.”