Ratanda hails a hero

Nothing much ever happens in Heidelberg, the small town on the N3 that could easily have been an extension of Vosloorus, the Ekurhuleni township.

Nothing much ever happens in Heidelberg, the small town on the N3 that could easily have been an extension of Vosloorus, the Ekurhuleni township.

That was until a youngster from its township, Ratanda, hurled all of his lanky 1,88m frame into the history books at the Beijing Olympics. Twenty-three-year-old Khotso Mokoena engraved his name in history by bringing South Africa its only medal, a silver at Beijing 2008.

Understandably, the township, which has not known any major sporting spectacle, exploded on Saturday as it welcomed its son, the Olympic hero.

There was an open-deck bus parade as Mokoena's proud parents, Phakiso and Nomasonto, led the festivities to toast their son, a true role model to many children in the area, as some parents are quick to say.

No one can fault the lasting jubilation of neighbours Mimi and Buti Moagi, who have the long jumper's poster plastered outside their front wall, a whole three days after the party.

"He made us proud," says Mimi, who thinks their own children do not have to look far for role models.

"Khotso is just on their doorstep."

Her husband works at the same tobacco company in town that employs the hero's mother.

"The topic at work has been nothing but Khotso."

Like most townships, Ratanda suffers a dearth of amenities. On our visit, the lone tennis court was crammed with youths engaged in anything from soccer to basketball.

In the nearby park, others whiled away time on the swings.

Little wonder that Mokoena had to move from Boneha, a primary school in Ratanda, to better-resourced schools in Shalimar Ridge, an Indian suburb nearby.

However humble his origins, at 1828 Seaga Street in Ratanda's Extension 3, Mokoena's medal remains priceless. - Don Makatile

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