Dewald Steyn during the recent launch of his book in Cape Town. The book offers a bird’s eye view of more than a century’s highlights of cross-country and long-distance road running. It is richly illustrated with hundreds of photographs.

Golden moments in cross-country, middle- and long-distance road running

Alumnus gathers
athletic gold

An NWU alumnus and former long-distance athlete has written a book that captures the exciting history of South African cross-country, middle- and long-distance road running.


It also highlights the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education’s glory days in the sport.

Dewald Steyn, alumnus of the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (PU for CHE) has an unquenchable thirst and unbridled passion for South African athletics.


It is this passion and his concern that some of the most precious and glorious sport achievements have never been collected and documented that prompted him to write History of South African cross-country, middle- and long-distance running and walking. The book, consisting of five volumes, is a documentation of prestigious events, great achievements and inspiring athletes.


Unearthing a treasure trove


Dewald says he realised four years ago that it would be a tragedy if the history of cross-country, middle- and long-distance running were lost to the current and future generations. “I knew that the only way was to actively engage in research and document it.”


“I am convinced that reliving the astonishing achievements of athletes will be an inspiration to our current crop of athletic achievers, as well as future generations of athletes.”His view was that to accurately compile the information, he needed to do more than just consult all the available records and statistics; he also had to obtain the facts straight from the horse’s mouth. He then started contacting some of the great living legends of South African athletics.


“This opened up a whole new world of information,” says Dewald. Most of the athletes had scrapbooks documenting their individual achievements. “The scrapbooks served as wonderful sources of information and also led to further interviews and interesting anecdotes, all of which have been captured in the book.”


He says some of the athletes generously donated their books to be preserved and he is currently looking for the right place to house these valuable documents.


His heart beats for sport


As a patron of athletics, Dewald has assisted many athletes with bursaries, jobs, accommodation, transport and more.


Through his guidance and coaching expertise, a number of these athletes have represented their countries and provinces in prestigious sport events that include the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships. Helalia Johannes and Mike Fokoroni are just two of the athletes who have had great achievements under his mentorship.

Prof Pieter Labuschagne, former coach of athletic superstars Zola Budd and Elana Meyer, wrote the foreword to the book.In his foreword Pieter said Dewald will always be found somewhere or somehow discovering a way to tirelessly work for the benefit of athletics. “He personifies and epitomises unrivalled service to athletics and to athletes, especially those athletes who are in need of help.”


According to Pieter, Dewald’s major contribution to athletics in South Africa was his bridging role in facilitating the entry of black athletes into sport in the new democratic era. “He was the talisman who fulfilled multiple roles in his quest to contribute to the development and upliftment of black long-distance athletes.”


The mammoth task of compiling the five volumes of History of South African cross-country, middle- and a long-distance running and walking, has fuelled Dewald’s enthusiasm. His next writing project will be even bigger and will focus on the whole history of South African athletics.


For more information about the book, contact Dewald at dewalds@worldonline.co.za or phone 082 442 1860.



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From athlete to author


Dewald has had a wonderful career in athletics that spans decades. It ranges from being an accomplished athlete himself in the 1960s and 1970s to coaching and managing cross-country and road-running athletes, organising cross-country events and active involvement in the upliftment of disadvantaged athletes.


His career highlights include, among others, being runner-up to De Villiers Lamprecht at the South African Universities Cross-Country Championships in 1966, representing South Africa in cross-country against the former Rhodesia and winning the novice trophy in the Comrades Marathon in 1975.


Dewald was also involved in provincial management of cross-country in the Western and Northern Transvaal.


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Front page

Winners of the NWU's Alumni Awards are from left Karen Meiring (Business Leadership Award), Dr Tanya Robinson (Research Award), Yvonne Mfolo (Community Involvement Award), Dr Theuns Eloff (Lifetime Achievement Award), Judge Frans Kgomo (Public Service Award) and Kobie van Rensburg (Arts and Culture Award). Due to urgent commitments elsewhere, the other two winners, Shanté Bukes (Sport Award) and Prof Llewellyn van Zyl (Young Alumnus Award) were not able to attend the event. Their representatives received the awards on their behalf.