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Pandemic breathes new life into Leotlela's Olympic dream

Covid-enforced break a blessing for sprint ace

Gift Leotlela participating in the mens 200m at PUK McArthur Stadium, Potchefstroom in 2017.
Gift Leotlela participating in the mens 200m at PUK McArthur Stadium, Potchefstroom in 2017.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

The Covid-19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise for sprinter Gift Leotlela. Weird as it may sound, the SA sprint ace says that the virus has given him a rare chance to work on his faded Olympic dream.

The 22-year-old’s career has been troubled by injuries and he is relieved that the pandemic has given him all the time that he needs to work on his comeback strategy.

Luckily for him, the Games have been moved to next year due to Covid-19 and this gives the talented sprinter a chance to qualify for the biggest global games when Athletics SA (ASA) opens the new season. The star, who is coached by Hennie Kriel at the High-Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria, feels like a newborn baby.

“I know it may seem weird to somebody but the pandemic is the best thing to happen to my career. I would not have gone to the Olympics if it could go ahead [this year]. But the postponement gave me a second chance to fight for my Olympic dreams. I am injury-free and I've been training well and feel like a brand-new athlete,” said Leotlela.

The soft-spoken runner suffered a stress fracture on his lower back in 2018. Last year, he was troubled by a hamstring injury.

“I miss everything about the sport – the fans and fellow athletes. I have forgotten the smell of the track."

Leotlela said he didn’t watch athletics when he was still out injured as it stirred up strong emotions and made him cry non-stop. His last competitive race was at the SA Senior Track and Field Championship in Potchefstroom in 2017.

Earlier this year, he clocked 10.33 to secure fourth place at the Athletics Gauteng North provincial championships.

Leotlela received the R20,000 relief fund money from the minister of sports, Nathi Mthethwa, in July. He is studying through the University of Pretoria bursary and enjoys the backing of his sponsors. 

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