Although he is not keen on publicity Koos Matsuang (21) finds it hard to hide his pride and delight with the four medals he won during the World Championships for Down Syndrome hosted in Funchal, Madeira recently.
Matsaung, a learner at New Horizon School for Specialised Education achieved a silver medal in the 400 m and bronze medals in the long jump, 100 m and 400 m relay. He is the only learner from his school who was included in the South African team sent to the world championships.
“The highlight of the event was every time I stepped onto the rostrum to receive a medal. I also won the first heat of the 400 m which made me very proud,” he said.
Matsaung described the stadium in Madeira as located in a picturesque area surrounded by mountains. He made many new friends and recalls taking lots of photos with them. He also fondly recalled the delicious food such as rice, fish, chicken and a variety of desserts they enjoyed during their stay.
Participating abroad and representing South Africa on international level is nothing new to Matsaung. In 2016 he visited Italy where he was part of South African futsal team and formed part of the international team again for the futsal tournament in Portugal last year. Futsal, also known as fútsal or footsal, is a variant of association football played on a hard court, smaller than a football pitch, and mainly indoors. It can be considered a version of five-a-side football.
He also participated in the World Championships for Down syndrome when it was hosted in Bloemfontein in 2015.
Athletics coach Lizzy Vogel said his achievement was extraordinary because she only had about two weeks to prepare Matsaung for the international event. “Even though he is a naturally talented athlete who always remains fit I had to put extra effort into conditioning him in a short space of time. But we are so proud of him – not only because of the medals but because of his humility about his achievements,” she said.
She added that Matsaung was one of only 15 South African athletes selected to compete against 22 countries at the championships. The team brought home 41 medals and their achievements and defeat over countries such as Portugal, Brazil and France secured them the second overall position of the championships. “It was not an easy championship as there were seven countries who went home without a single medal. Athletes has to fight and work hard to obtain a spot in the top three,” Vogel said.
She added that South Africa would have had a bigger team participating and a better chance of winning the championships but just over half of the originally selected team was able to go as it was a self-funded event and athletes had to rely on schools and the private sector for donations.
She concluded by saying that Matsaung is an athlete who understands what a coach requires and is always willing to train hard.
Story: RC Myburgh