By Shireen Sedres
Humanity triumphs as young cross-country athlete displays amazing act of sportsmanship
Sixteen year old Ronen Oosthuizen’s incredible demonstration of selflessness to sacrifice his position to help a fellow athlete cross the finish line at the South African Cross Country Championships in Potchefstroom has been hailed as inspirational, and received with unprecedented admiration and praise from South Africans on social media.
A Facebook post sharing news and images of Ronen’s amazing gesture towards Mpho Mitchell from Gauteng North went viral on Monday with close to 29 000 likes and 16 00 shares and over 4 300 comments by Tuesday. Comments varied from ‘Respect’ to ‘Inspirational’ to ‘Absolutely love this’. The overwhelming response showed that people are in awe of Ronen’s display of sportsmanship and astonishing act of altruism.
In a telephonic interview, Ronen, a grade 11 learner at Bergsig Academy and u/17 cross country athlete from Athletics North West, said that he is humbled by the overwhelming reaction from people from all over South Africa.
“I was not having a very good race at all and at one point considered throwing in the towel. Never could I have imagined that it would become one of my most memorable races ever and a blessing and inspirational to so many people.”
Ronen explained that about 200 meters from the finish he saw Mpho fall. He initially thought that his fellow runner would get back up again, but soon realized that his legs were not going to carry him to the finish. “I thought to myself that he must have trained so hard to come to nationals to not cross the finish line. I turned around, picked him up and helped him across the last 150 meters of the race.
“I am really grateful for the positive response, but really just did what was most obvious. In that moment all I could think of was that I must help him, I want I help him.”
Ronen’s dad, Marius Oosthuizen, senior pastor at the Vantage Point Church in Rustenburg, says it was indeed a very special moment to witness, and they are very proud of their son. “What is most touching is the greater impact his actions have had on so many people in such a short space of time. It has demonstrated that there is a definite need among many to really feel that South Africans care about each other, regardless of our cultural backgrounds. I think Ronen’s selfless act gave many people hope and reminded them that South Africans do care.”
Ronen is a top 800m and 1 500 athlete as well, and was included in the initial national preparation squad for the IAAF World u/18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya in July. He was silver medallist at the South African champs but was not included in the final team. Besides athletics he also excels at tennis and hockey, as well as academically. He has also been selected as deputy head boy at his school next year. “He works hard and is a well-balanced young man. He is good natured and has a positive approach to life,” says his dad Marius.
“Caring and respect for others are the foundation of what we teach Ronen and his sister Marlé and as parents, Adéle and I could not be more proud of them both.”
His parents and Roger Federer count among Ronen’s role models, but his biggest role model is the 800m world record holder David Lekuta Rudisha from Kenya. Rudisha, the world and Olympic champion and the only person to run under 1min 41sec for the 800m had to pull out of the recent IAAF Championships in London with a quad muscle strain.
“I admire David’s approach to athletics and life. He trains hard, and as many others before him he inspires his fellow countrymen to dream big. It would be a very magical moment if I could meet him in person one day,” he continues.
In other dreams, Ronen wants to focus on long distance and cross country running after school and hopes to study abroad. “I intend to study mechanical engineering, but will definitely focus on my athletics and cross country as well.
“There is a beauty in running that I cannot explain in words. For me it is not about competing per se, it is discovering just how far you can push your body to achieve extraordinary things as an ordinary person.”