Speedster Nicola van der Merwe geared-up for African Youth Games

Athletics North West North’s Nicola van der Merwe, right, will represent South Africa in the African Youth Games, in Algeria, next month. Here she is pictured at the ASA youth and junior championships, in Paarl, in April. Photo by Keagan Mitchell.

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With the international athletics season in full swing, Athletics North West North’s Nicola van der Merwe, 17, will be over the moon, following her inclusion in the South African team, for the African Youth Games, in Algeria, next month.

Last week, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee(SASCOC) announced a 29-member track and field squad that includes 13 boys’ and 16 girls’ will travel to Algeria to compete in the third edition of this competition.

They will be joined by three other sporting codes that includes archery, hockey 5’s (boys and girls) and rugby sevens.

Team SA will be among the favorites after they finished behind Ethiopia in the previous edition of the African Youth Games, in Botswana, in 2014.

The African show piece also serves as a qualification opportunity for the Youth Olympic Games, in Buenos Aires, in Argentina, in October.

Nicola from Rustenburg who will be competing in the 200m sprint event said she is humbled by her selected in the South African squad.

“A few years ago, I was told that I could compete at the All African Games but I could not imagen it. Today, it is like a dream come true which is such a blessing. The plan is to qualify for the Youth Olympics and run a personal best”, she said.

In April, the Grade 11 pupil at Rustenburg High School won the gold and silver medals in the girls’ under-18 200m and 100m sprints, clocking a personal time (PB) time of 23.86 and 11.83 seconds at the Southern Region Youth and Junior Championships, in Boksburg, in Johannesburg.

In the same month, the youngster was crowned the girls’ under-18 200m SA champion, clocking 24.83 seconds, while she finished second in the 100m sprints, at the Athletics South Africa(ASA) Youth and Junior Championships, in Paarl.

“To win the 200m sprints at the SA youth and junior championships gave me great confidence and motivation moving forward following the disappointing season I had last year. I believe the person who trains the hardest will win because everyone who qualifies for nationals is blessed with a talent,” said Nicola who has been a regular at SA schools’ since 2013.

It comes no surprise why Nicola is doing so well as her mother Liezl represented South Africa in duathlon on a number of occasions.

“She was and still is an excellent athlete,” said Nicola who only started doing track and field in Grade 6 because she had problems with her feet.

“Before than I was doing swimming and my parents Mickey and Liezl thought I will become a professional swimmer.  However, I told them I want to sprinting and they have supported me every step of the way,” she said.


A fan of the Netherlands sprint sensation Dafne Schippers who won the gold medal in the women’s 200m sprints, at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Senior Championships in 2015 and 2017. Schippers who only started focusing on sprinting in 2015 after she done heptathlon in the early part of her career  won the silver medal in the women’s 200m sprints, at the Olympics Games, in Brazil, in 2016.

“As a youngster Schippers dominated heptathlon events and is now a force to be reckoned with in the sprint events. This goes to shows that anything is possible in athletics,” said Nicola.


written by Keagan Mitchell