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The University Sports South Africa (USSA) athletics competition recently made a champion out of Stellenbosch University (SU) athlete Sarah Copeland. The championship was hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) from 13 -15 May.

Copeland, a first year BSc Sport Science student, earned a gold medal at USSA in the 5000m race with a time of 17 minutes 36 seconds. She also won a silver medal in the 1500m category, where she was narrowly outsprinted by UJ athlete Prudence Sekgodiso. 

This championship was a first for Copeland. She only started running competitively in grade 11 after joining the Central Gauteng Athletics club (CGA). Her first thoughts after winning the race were of utter surprise. Her goal in the race, which was her first 5000m race of the season, was simply to give her best. Copeland was incredibly pleased with the outcome. 

Copeland spoke of an incredibly pleasant experience at USSA, where she could get to know her fellow athletes and competitors. “I was so grateful for the opportunity to race and to participate in a championship. The friendships I got to make with the girls I raced against was brilliant,” said Copeland. 

Despite her brilliant fare at USSA, Copeland’s journey to the championship was not without obstacles. Significant challenges were posed to her last year after she sustained an iliotibial band (ITB) injury. After the injury she could not train for a total of six weeks. Copeland reflects that such obstacles can make you more appreciative of being able to run.

 “It was hard not to run and do what I love, but coming back made me love running so much more, and made me more thankful for the ability to run. It is a privilege,” said Copeland. 

Copeland admits that the balancing act between academics and running can be tricky. Stress and pressure can make training days more difficult. Luckily, running is her passion, so Copeland is able to be optimistic about the hard work. She believes that she is able to honour God with her talent, and that it challenges her to become stronger, faster and fitter. She is willing to face that challenge.

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