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How SA’s sports stars are rising to the COVID-19 fight

With a 1000km backyard bike ride, swimming 36km in a pool, and helping workers on the front lines; SA's sports stars are using their talents to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

SA MTB rider Matthys Beukes. Credit: Credit: @matthys_beukes

While the world of sport has ground to a screeching halt over the last month with live sport being cancelled and some of the world’s greatest sporting events put on hold, nothing has stopped sports personalities from using their talents and skills to inspire others, and to raise money for good.

Over the past four weeks, athletes have rallied together in solidarity with fans to provide relief aid to communities in desperate need of help. At home in South Africa there have been initiatives since the start of the lockdown to help South Africans who were left without work and food.

They say charity begins at home and that’s exactly what a few sports personalities have done to bring some much-needed relief to South Africans.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and his wife Rachel Kolisi have launched the Kolisi Foundation which is providing food parcels to hungry families in poor communities across South Africa, and helping source personal protective equipment for health workers fighting the pandemic.

The foundation has recently partnered with PinkDrive and Citadel to donate R1 million to provide COVID-19 testing in identified “hotspots” around the country.

Kolisi, who led South Africa to victory at the Rugby World Cup in Japan last year, has been active since the country went into lockdown more than four weeks ago, whether it’s sending a virtual elbow bump and words of encouragement, or sharing fitness routines on social media. “Hopefully, whatever we do right now, is to be able to look after people, I hope this carries on. It doesn’t stop. We’ll make sure,” Kolisi said.

Meanwhile, at his home in George, Matthys Beukes, one of South Africa’s most celebrated mountain bikers, is on a 1000km journey (around his property) to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts.

The 32-year-old cyclist had a successful 2019, winning the Loerie Mountain Bike Challenge, the Trailseeker Series WC #4 in Wellington and the Sabie Classic.

“The ABSA Cape Epic was cancelled and when I got back home I was severely depressed and the reality of what was going to happen hit me hard. After 3 or 4 days I realised that I have a decision to make and that I can take control of how I handle the situation,” Beukes said. “I started working on the lap around our house to get it ready for something special, for exactly what I didn’t know yet but I knew it would have to be something that is going to push my boundaries and hopefully inspire other people in this tough time.”

Beukes is raising money for the Humanitarian Empowerment Fund (HEF) which helps communities in Gauteng’s West Rand and in Elsies River in the Western Cape. The ride is expected to finish on Thursday night. After 100km, Beukes had already raised around R25 000.

#Repost @pyga_euro_steel with @make_repost ・・・ (#linkinbio) @matthys_beukes will be riding 1000 kilometers 🚴🏽‍♂️ on his personal premis 🏡, with one goal in mind. Raising money towards relief during and after the #covid_19 lockdown 🇿🇦 is facing. We are the African MTB Team. We are Team @pygabikes @euro_steel_sport

Posted by Matthys Beukes on Sunday, 26 April 2020

To follow Beukes’ ride, go to his Facebook pag e or follow him on Instagram. To donate go to www.lockdown1000.org

Across the country, in the swimming pool of one of South Africa’s top adventure swimmer, another humanitarian effort was taking place on Freedom Day.

Adrian "Buff" van Westenbrugge, adventure swimmer and local entrepreneur, swam a record 5 times the length of the Robben Island crossing, live on Facebook, to provide meals for vulnerable children and families heavily impacted by the national lockdown.

Van Westenbrugge did the 36 kilometre swim in his backyard swimming pool to raise funds for the Clothing Bank Hunger Relief Drive. He swam for 12 hours and raised R150 000.

Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has also lent his support to Laureus Sport for Good South Africa, which has partnered with The Learning Trust, After School Programme Office (DCAS), and ASSITEJ SA to create a central “treasure box” of resources from the four pillars of After School programmes.

"Education has been badly affected during these times, as we're all aware of, and after school activities have come to a halt. Keep visiting the Treasure Box as we will be constantly updating it. Hopefully we can keep learning, keep growing and keep getting better," De Villiers said.

The resource page features the following four pillars: Academic, Life-skills Psycho-Social Support, Sport and Recreation and Arts and Culture.

Laureus funded programmes like HealthNutz, Waves For Change, School of Hard Knocks, Grassroot Soccer and Fight With Insight have all shared their unique content available for download in the sports section of the portal.