Tales of the Legends – Tribute to a Departed Hero, Gone Too Soon, Quinton-Steele Botes

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, that’s the only suitable and most fitting tribute one can reserve for our departed likeable athletics guru, Quinton-Steele Botes, who exited the game of life earlier this week after losing a long battle with bone-marrow cancer.

The late Botes can be described in many ways as a jovial fellow who never failed to crack a joke whenever the opportunity arose. Boertjie, as the easygoing brother was affectionately known in sports circles, had an affinity for people from all walks of life, while his enthusiasm and passion for sports knew no borders.

The author had an amicable relationship with Boertjie, and when I woke up in the wee hours of Tuesday morning earlier this week, I felt a pinch in my throat when my ageing reddish eyes paged through my mobile phone trying to get to grips with the sad news delivering the message about the sudden passing of an icon. Through my early morning foul breath, I was uttering incoherently to myself that this can’t be true and pinched myself several times in an effort to drag myself back to reality, notwithstanding the fact the brother had taken ill for some time. In today’s edition of our weekly feature, Tales of the Legends, New Era Sports will bring to you, our esteemed readers a detailed feature on the life of Quinton Steele-Botes as we mourn, and at the same time celebrate, the abbreviated life of a genuine son of the soil, a man who dedicated himself to the plight of fellow citizens.

In his own spoken tongue, Boertjie used to brag about his birthplace, Usakos, a tiny town locked between Karibib and Arandis in the Erongo Region. So, who could blame him for his bragging rights, after all, one of the country’s most recognizable politicians and incumbent Speaker of the National Assembly, one Theo-Ben Gurirab, is a product of Usakos as well.

Like many boys his age, the sports crazy young Quinton started out as a sprinter while still wet behind the ears as a pupil at the Suiderhof Primary School, in the south of the capital Windhoek, in 1971. His versatility propelled him to master the 60m, 80m and long jump events at a fairly young age.

He was amongst the first intake of pupils at the newly opened Pionierspark Primary School in 1972. The hyperactive Quinton continued to pursue his athletics aspirations and kept on doing what he did best, showing his competitors a clean pair of heels in the shorter sprints, and the high and long jump.

By the time he was about to complete his secondary education at the Windhoek High School in 1979, Quinton had taken up the javelin and the pole volt – in which he competed with ease and maturity way belying his limited height.

In only his maiden year at the Teachers’ Training College, for the umpteenth time Boertjie switched his allegiance – to the 400m hurdles and decathlon that saw him accumulate 5500 points according to the international scoring table.

Quinton also claimed bronze in the same discipline at the South African Championships, while his involvement in the decathlon would eventually pave the way for Boertjie to coach athletes in a variety of track and field events in the absence of a specialized coach in his native land.

In 1986, Boertjie was appointed head coach of the Windhoek Teachers’ College Athletics Club but unfortunately sustained a career-threatening knee injury the following year – bringing a premature end to a flourishing athletics career but he kept coaching other athletes until 1989.

He teamed up with former Namibian sprinter Hawie Engels, a product from the Wennie Du Plessis High School in Gobabis, to establish what was then known as the WHS Athletics Club, where he still held the reins until his untimely death.

He also doubled as secretary for the SWAIKS Athletics Union alongside Koos van der Merwe, Engels and Piet Hough until the union folded in 1990 as Namibia was entering a new era.

Boertjie took up coaching more seriously when he attended courses under the auspices of the South West Africa Amateur Athletics Association (SWAAAA) and went on to acquire Western Province coaching colours, which came with an award in the shape of a two-year scholarship to study sports science in Germany in 1991.

Upon completion of the course, Quinton was armed with certificates in athletics track and field coaching, and acquired his IAAF level one coaching certificate in 1993 before adding another accolade to his rich collection of achievements that included an IAAF lecturer’s certificate.

He successfully conducted his first level one athletics IAAF coaching course in Windhoek in 1995 while several others followed afterwards.

Despite his unquestionable coaching pedigree, Boertjie was an astute sports administrator whose administrative acumen caught the eye of athletics officials, who duly rewarded him by electing him to serve on both the National Olympic Committee and Namibia Olympic Committee simultaneously.

Boertjie would go on to serve Athletics Namibia in various capacities and also served as chairman of the Doping Committee. In 1996, Boertjie was invited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to undergo a director’s course that would enable him to conduct multiple sports leadership courses in sports administration.

A year later, Botes was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that causes the collection of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow, where they interfere with the production of normal blood cells, leading to kidney failure.

Those in the know are all in unison that Namibia has not only lost an athletics icon but a true son of the soil who sacrificed a lot in his unwavering desire to fight for the betterment of fellow citizens.

A chip off the old block, Boertjie’s dedication to local athletics earned him international recognition, which saw him being honoured by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as a coaching lecturer.

“His invaluable input in sports, notably athletics will be sorely missed,” says longtime colleague and athletics guru, Oom Hannes von Holtz, adding: “Gone too soon but it will be against conventional wisdom not to appreciate and celebrate the time we spent with him in his somewhat abbreviated life battling a life-threatening illness. Quinton has achieved so much that it will be very difficult to emulate.”

Athletics Namibia (AN) president, Alna Similo, couldn’t contain her grief when contacted for comment this week.

“The whole of Africa has lost an athletics giant and it will take some time for the athletics fraternity to fill the void left by Botes.”

Similo added that upon her election as AN president, Boertjie was one of those few who guided and aised her on how to go about her daily functions while was also instrumental in sourcing funds for the union.

Boertjie was hailed as the brainchild behind the tremendous growth of the annual Old Mutual Victory Race Series. Old Mutual Namibia joined hundreds of mourners in paying their last respects to the departed hero.

“Quinton was a true partner of the Victory Race Series as race director and almost single-handedly made sure the race would reach all communities across the country, offering them that rare amusement and sense of achievement that sports can bring to people,” reads a statement from Old Mutual.

As technical manager of the Namibian Olympic Team, he attended two Olympic Games, three World Games, one African Games and two Commonwealth Games. He resigned from Athletics Namibia in 2005.

Source : New Era