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It is inevitable that when one superstar is absent, another will rise to stardom.

This was the case for Gardeo Isaacs, a third year BCom (Management Science) student who, in the absence of world champion Wayde van Niekerk, rose to the occasion to claim the first place in the 400 metres at last year’s Athletics South Africa (ASA) National Senior Championships. This year, his sights are set even higher.

“The biggest goal for this year is to qualify for the Olympics. To qualify, need to run a 44.9 second race. My personal best is currently at 45.3 seconds. I do not think that it is such a major jump. I think I can do it this year,” Isaacs said.

The early signs are certainly promising. On 4 March, he raced in his first 200-metre race of the year, completing it with a new personal best, and he looks more motivated than ever to achieve his goals. Not only does he want to defend his title, but world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, is back in action. This, however, only seems to awaken Isaacs’ competitive spirit.

“I thrive on competition,” Isaacs said. “I switch on when there are big names around me. It helps me to perform at the highest level.”

With an excellent support system working in the background, Isaacs is hard at work preparing for the major qualifying events, including the 2020 ASA National Senior Championships that will take place in April. He attributes a lot of his success to the support system that Maties has in place to manage their athletes. “Their structures and the way they care for their athletes is, in my opinion, one of the best in South Africa,” Isaacs said. He mentions, however, that it is sometimes important to get away from the track.

“The best in the world are able to plan which races to compete in and where to peak. This is important in terms of burning out later in the season. I would like to break away a bit and spend more time with friends and family,” he said.

Athletics seems to be a family affair for the Isaacs’. It was initially his grandparents who introduced him to athletics and now his mother is a crucial part of his support system. Isaacs also mentions that his coach is now almost like family. “I see him more as a father figure than a coach. He has helped me build character both on and off track,” Isaacs said.

With his growing success showing character and acting in the right manner is now more important than ever. “With all the recent media attention after my win, I have to be very vigilant about how I act and what I say, especially on social media. Young kids can be very easily influenced.” Inspiring others is one of his passions. When he one day retires from professional athletics he would like to motivate and help young up-and-coming talent. With his humbleness and dedication, he is already inspiring a new generation of superstars to achieve greatness. –

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