Murray & Roberts Jack Cheetam Memorial Award
14 October 2008
The 2008 Murray & Roberts Jack Cheetham Memorial Award was presented to the Welkom Wrestling Club development program at a gala dinner in Sandton on 14 October.
In partnership with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and Sowetan newspaper, Murray & Roberts selected the Welkom-based development program in recognition of its excellence and significant community impact.
The Welkom Wrestling Club development program represents the vision of Jan Bezuidenhout, a Welkom farmer and former Springbok wrestler and coach, who firmly believes in the sport as a vehicle for personal and community empowerment.
In 1992, Bezuidenhout started training children from the streets of Welkom and the impoverished townships of Thabong and Bronville to be wrestlers. He had seen the devastating impact of a decline in mining activity on these communities and hoped that wrestling would give the children - many of them orphans - a sense of self-worth and purpose and the ability to effect transformation in their communities.
Today, about 75 young boys and girls from as young as four years old train for two hours four days a week in a hall at Welkom's showgrounds. The Bezuidenhout grandsons and other children from the more privileged sectors of the community join in - all beneficiaries of one man's vision.
Using his personal funds, a variety of small donations and support from his two sons and two sons-in-law, who all achieved Springbok colours for wrestling, Bezuidenhout has given a generation of young people something to live for. Talented wrestlers and those who develop a track record of strong performance compete at provincial and national tournaments and the Bezuidenhout family provides educational support and employment opportunities to club members whose families are in dire need.
The development program has built a track record that is nothing short of phenomenal, producing the likes of Hilton Arends, Denver Jansen and Piet Olivier - all South African junior and senior wrestling champions who have earned Protea colours - and Sylvester Williams, who, at the age of eight, became the first black South African wrestler to achieve South African colours after 1994.
In December 2007, the club secured the coaching services of Egyptian wrestling champion, Amro Hassan who, together with the formidable Bezuidenhout family and other retired club wrestlers, are outstanding role models for a new generation of champions emerging from the development program.
"The Welkom Wrestling Club development program is achieving excellence in the sport of wrestling and is also using the sport as a vehicle to transform the lives of many young people in the community. With additional resources, we believe that the program will have an even greater impact," said Sean Flanagan, executive director of Murray & Roberts and convener of the panel of judges.
President of SASCOC, Moss Mashishi said: "It is very encouraging to see that so many young athletes have shown an interest in participating and learning about the sport of wrestling. Wrestling is an Olympic sport, so we will watch with keen interest to see the progress of development amongst these young athletes. It will be truly outstanding if our future Olympians come from this group of athletes."
The Jack Cheetham Memorial Award was initiated by Murray & Roberts 27 years ago in recognition of the special qualities of Jack Cheetham, a former director of the company and the inspirational captain of the South African cricket team in the 1950's who was able to instill in young people the belief that they could win. The award targets sports development projects, focusing on individuals or teams that have the potential to be champions.
The award, which includes a floating trophy and prize money of R500 000 over a period of five years, was presented by inspirational South African paralympic gold medalists who attended the event as special guests.
The runner-up is the Tiger Titans Cricket Club, a cricket club initiated by a 14-year-old school boy Ross McCreath, for young people from the impoverished Nolukanye township in Bathurst. The runner-up receives prize money of R50 000.