Top wrestlers of the future
"A child in sport is a child out of court."
These are the profound words of young Arnold Bezuidenhout, a talented wrestler based at the Welkom Wrestling Club and this year's recipient of the Jack Cheetham Memorial Award.
"Wrestling has pulled me out of a life of misery and mischief and made me a competitive young man who is respected and admired by the local community," says Bezuidenhout.
The young wrestler, along with more than 100, mostly destitute youngsters from Bronville and Thabong townships, are being nurtured by his namesake, Jan Bezuidenhout.
The latter is a former Springbok wrestler and now farms in the Welkom district.
His passion, from 1992, was to make wrestling a vehicle for community development, using his own funds to train children from the region to become our country's wrestlers.
Arnold, his protégé, is one of the club's national wrestling champions, together with Hilton Arends, Denver Jansen, Piet Olivier and Sylvester Williams.
Interestingly, Williams was aged eight when he became the first black South African wrestler in the 16kg to 18kg category to achieve South African colours after 1994.
A supportive community member is Lerato Molale, the local area commissioner of the SA Police Service, who says: "The club has helped to reshape the social focus of many youngsters who were previously headed in the wrong direction and the boys are now perfect role models. We need more development projects like this one."
In December 2007, the club secured the coaching services of Egyptian wrestling champion Amro Hassan, who even spent his own money to buy wrestling mats for the club, as has Bezuidenhout, who spent over R300000 of his own cash to nurture South Africa's future champion wrestlers.
The sports-mad farmer is now an extremely happy man. The Cheetham Award comes with a R500000 grant over five years.
He says: "Now, I can transport my future champs to important sporting events and also build up the club.
"At last a service to fellow human beings is being noticed by the world."
lThe 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 an inspirational captain of the South African cricket team in the 1950s.
He was directly involved in inspiring young people, whatever their background, to believe that they could overcome all odds.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee and Sowetan have made the Cheetham Award a part of the youth development activities of the Aggrey Klaaste Foundation.
It targets sports development projects that focus on individuals or teams that have the potential to be true champions in whatever sport they have chosen.