Meet the Great-Grandma Who Trains South Africa’s Fastest Man

[People ★★★]


(P1) South African sprinter Wayde Van Niekerk set a world record Sunday night in the men’s 400-meter race. It’s an Olympic feat that the Washington Post says, “no one saw coming” except, perhaps, for the 74-year-old Namibian great-grandmother who trains him. Van Niekerk first caught the eye of Ans Botha, who’s been a track and field coach for half a century, at 2010’s IAAF World Junior Championships. She started coaching him two years later, Quartz notes. He’s managed to get four seconds faster in the 400-meter competition since she took over his training regimen.

(P2) His success may be due to the no-nonsense approach that is taken by Botha, known as “Tannie Ans” (“Aunt Ans” in Afrikaans) in the running world. “When I first met her, I was afraid of her,” fellow South African runner Akani Simbine tells the Post. He says she becomes “loving” once you get to know her. “When the track workouts need to be done, she makes sure you get them done.” Van Niekerk credits the silver-haired septuagenarian for how far he’s come, saying after his big win that “she’s played a huge role in what I am today,” per Fox Sports. “She’s really kept me very disciplined and very focused on the goal.”

WORDS: 203


VOCABULARY: sprinter, century, regimen, workouts, septuagenarian


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Would you like to be able to run as fast or faster than Van Niekerk?
  3. Why do you think Ans Botha is still coaching?
  4. Are you disciplined and focused on your goals? Why or why not?


  1. Which event did the runner set a world record in?
  2. How old is Ans Botha?
  3. How long has the great-grandmother been coaching?
  4. What’s another name people call Ans Botha?
  5. What’s the name of Van Niekerk’s teammate?


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • first caught the eye of (P1)
  • half a century (P1)
  • took over (P1)
  • no-nonsense approach (P2)

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Image source: Twitter NBC Olympics

One thought on “Meet the Great-Grandma Who Trains South Africa’s Fastest Man

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