It's early morning in Soweto.
South African ten-thousand metre champion Poppy Mlambo is on her regular training run.
Residents of Emdeni, where she lives, are used to seeing her dimunitive frame through the winter
– 01 03 16 09] EVERY DAY I'M TRAINING, MORNING, AFTERNOON AND SO I HAVE
NO TIME FOR PARTIES AND EVERY THING. EVERY SATURDAY AND SUNDAY I HAVE
TO GO TO THE COMPETITION. SO I AM SPENDING A LOT OF TIME ON THE
[POPPIE 1 – 01 00 08 18-01 00 17 18] I STARTED
RUNNING WHEN I WAS YOUNG UNTIL NOW. NOW I'M 23 YEARS OLD WHICH MEANS
IT'S A TALENT, THE THING THAT I LOVE.
[01 01 39 06] I CAN SAY IT'S MY CAREER, IT'S MY JOB. BECAUSE NOW I AM NOT WORKING. I'M TRAINING EVERY DAY
[SA CHAMPS – FILE – POPPY'S TIME 34:19]
Her best time for the 10-thousand metres is 32:58.
The Olympic qualifying time is 31:45.
At the SA champs in Durban earlier this year she finished way ahead of
others in the field, but didn't make the team for Athens.
[ASA HOUSE – 01 44 44 21]
It's a problem, says Banele Sindani of Athletics South Africa.
37 45 12] IF YOU'VE GOT A FEW ATHLETES AT THE TOP, YOU'VE GOT LACK OF
DEPTH. THEY DON'T HAVE ANYBODY TO COMPETE WITH. A CLASSICAL EXAMPLE IS
POPPY MLAMBO. SHE'S IN A CLASS OF HER OWN AND SHE DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH
COMPETITION IN THIS COUNTRY. YET FOR HER TO GO AND COMPETE OUTSIDE SHE
HAS TO REACH CERTAIN PARTICIPATION OF PERFORMANCE LEVELS WHICH SHE
CANNOT ACHIEVE IN THIS COUNTRY, SHE HAS TO ACHIEVE THEM OUTSIDE. BUT
SHE CANNOT BE ACCEPTED OUTSIDE UNTIL SHE ACHIEVES THOSE PERFORMANCE
[PROF CORA BURNETT/RAU- 01 38 00 11] YOU DON'T HAVE
RESOURCES, SO YOU CAN'T PERFORM WELL. ONCE YOU CAN'T PERFORM WELL,
PEOPLE WON'T RESOURCE YOU, SO THERE IS A LOT OF THAT
[POPPY – 01
06 03 00] FOR THE OLYMPICS I DIDN'T QUALIFY AND I WAS SUPPOSED TO GO TO
EUROPE WEEK BEFORE LAST. THE PROBLEM IS FINANCIAL. I DON'T HAVE MONEY.
I WAS SUPPOSED TO PAY R8 THOUSAND FOR A TICKET. I DON'T HAVE THAT MONEY
[HANGING UP WASHING – 01 19 58 20]
income is the few hundred and sometimes thousand rands collected in
prize money over weekends. It goes towards supporting her extended
[01 02 25 21] MY PARENTS PASSED AWAY WHEN I WAS YOUNG AND
NOW I'M STAYING WITH MY AUNT AND UNCLE. THEY ARE NOT WORKING. NO-ONE IS
WORKING HERE, ONLY MY SISTER EARNING SMALL MONEY – LESS THAN A THOUSAND
RAND – DOMESTIC WORK.
[01 07 17 20] IF I CAN MOVE TO AMERICA AND RUN FAST, I WILL HAVE A LOT
OF MONEY AND A SPONSOR, SO THE PEOPLE WILL NOTICE ME…
SINDANI/ASA – 01 32 16 14] POVERTY DOES PLAY A ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF ATHLETES. WE HELP THEM HERE AND THERE WITH MONEY AND WITH SOME
CLOTHING, BUT WHAT YOU FIND IS THAT THE MONEY THAT YOU GIVE THEM ENDS
UP SUPPORTING THE FAMILY. IT'S NOT MONEY THAT THE ATHLETES USE FOR
THEMSELVES – TO BUY SUPPLEMENTS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. THE MONEY
SUPPORTS THE FAMILY. THE CLOTHING, THE TRACK SUIT GOES TO A YOUNGER
BROTHER AND THE SHOES TO ANOTHER BROTHER…
[NOAKES SET UP]
But the problems go further than that, says well-known sports scientist Tim Noakes.
NOAKES – 01 08 20 11 – MINI DV] I THINK SUCCESS IN RUNNING,
PARTICULARLY FOR WOMEN IS DETERMINED BY CERTAIN SOCIAL FACTORS. FIRSTLY
YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE TIME. SECONDLY YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE
SELF-ABSORPTION BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO FOCUS ENTIRELY ON YOURSELF AND
THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY A FEMALE CHARACTERISTIC. THIRDLY YOU HAVE TO
HAVE AN OCCUPATION WHICH ALLOWS YOU THE TIME NOT ONLY TO RUN, BUT TO
RECOVER BECAUSE WHEN YOU START TRAINING HARD MOST OF THE TIME YOU NEED
TO REST. AND THE FOURTH FACTOR IS YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME HEROES THAT
YOU'RE FOLLOWING IN THEIR PATTERN AND OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE
GENETIC ABILITY AS WELL. IT'S A WHOLE PACKAGE. PEOPLE TRY TO SAY
SUCCESS IS DETERMINED BY ONE OF THOSE FACTORS. IT'S NOT. IT'S THE
SOCIAL FACTOR, THE ENVIRONMENTAL FACTOR AND THEN THE GENETIC FACTOR.
AND YOU'VE GOT TO GET A PERFECT COMBINATION TO BE SUCCESSFUL
[MEYER – FILE]
Poppy Mlambo's hero is Elana Meyer, silver medallist at the 1992 Olympics.
– 01 03 40 08] MY HERO IT'S ELANA MEYER. I WANT TO BE LIKE ELANA MEYER.
WHEN I WAS YOUNG I TOLD MYSELF I WANT TO BE LIKE ELANA MEYER. I WANT TO
RUN FAST, BUT NOW HERE I AM. I'M RUNNING FAST
But these days there are very few role models for aspiring women athletes.
The media tend to make heroes of rugby, soccer and cricket players.
[SHARAPOVA – WIMBLEDON]
Women usually feature only if they are particularly good-looking.
CORA BURNETT/RAU – 01 35 18 17] YOU OPEN NEWSPAPERS, YOU SEE MALE
SPORT, MALE ATHLETES – IT'S THE GENERAL TREND AND THE SPONSORS FOLLOW
SUIT. SO IT'S LEFT TO THE POOR GOVERNMENT TO SEE THAT THESE OTHER
ATHLETES ARE STIMULATED, ARE PROVIDED FOR.
[FILE – KIDS PLAYING SOCCER]
rural black communities, role models are always male, as Professor
Burnett discovered while doing research in the Eastern Cape.
01 45 59 03] THEY ARE YOUNG GIRLS – 10, 11 YEARS OLD. BLACK GIRLS IN
THE EASTERN CAPE THEY KNOW SHAUN POLLOCK, BUT THEY DON'T HAVE A ROLE
MODEL, SO MAYBE IF WE PUT SOME NETBALL PLAYERS AND THEIR FACES – I
SPOKE TO MARTHA MASOAHLE. SHE'S THE CAPTAIN AND A STUDENT OF MINE AND
SHE SAYS IN AUSTRALIA THEY REALLY PROMOTE THESE ATHLETES OF THEIRS.
THEY EVEN HAVE THEIR FACES ON NETBALL BALLS AND WILL BE DISTRIBUTED
ACROSS THE COUNTRY. YET WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT THEM. WE DON'T SEE THEM SO
HOW CAN WE MODEL OURSELVES ACCORDINGLY?
[USE NETBALL OVERLAY FOR INTV]
[POPPIE TRAINING AT WITS]
But there are a multitude of other reasons that prevent women athletes from progressing.
CORA -01 34 39 04] SOME OF THE ATHLETES TOLD ME THAT WHEN THEY START
RUNNING THE PEOPLE TOLD THEM, LISTEN YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO RUN
OTHERWISE YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO HAVE CHILDREN
[BANELE SINDANI/ASA –
01 33 56 05] I'M REFERRING TO A CULTURE WHERE FATHERS ARE MAYBE OVER
PROTECTIVE OVER GIRL CHILDREN BECAUSE WHAT YOU FIND IS THEY HAVE TO GO
OUT TRAINING AND IN WINTER THE COACH IS WORKING, HAS TO TRAVEL BY
TRAIN, GETS TO SOWETO AFTER 6 OR 7. IT'S DARK ALREADY AND MANY PARENTS
WOULDN'T LIKE TO SEE THEIR CHILDREN, PARTICULARLY GIRLS, BEING OUT IN
THE DARK AT THAT TIME OF DAY
[POPPY AND SEFALO WAITING FOR TRAIN]
The reason Poppy Mlambo manages to train so much is because she is
always accompanied and encouraged by her boyfriend, Sefalo.
[TRAINING AT WITS]
But in this country there is often a complete lack of interest from those closest to aspiring athletes.
CORA – 01 34 12 22] YOU NEED A MOTHER, FATHER, FAMILY MEMBER, TEACHER
COACH THAT CAN NURTURE YOU, THAT CAN BE THAT NETWORK FOR YOU. AND
UNLESS YOU GET THE PARENTS INVOLVED, INSTEAD OF TELLING THE ATHLETES
WHAT THEY SHOULD EAT, YOU TELL THE PARENTS WHAT THEY SHOULD COOK FOR
THEM…HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THESE ATHLETES – YOU GET THE FAMILY IN.
There are also too many road running events and athletes don't concentrate on a single discipline.
Gladys Lukwareni came third in the Two Oceans ultra marathon in April, running part of the race barefoot.
Two months later, she was second to Poppy Mlambo in the Spar 10 kilometre race in Durban.
SINDANI/ASA – 01 36 20 05] ATHLETES WHO RUN TRACK ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO
BE RUNNING ANYTHING ELSE ABOVE 21KM. THE LONGEST THEY SHOULD COMPETE ON
THE ROAD IS 10, 15 AND 21. BUT IN THIS COUNTRY THERE ARE A LOT OF 42KM,
56KM AND THE COMRADES AND THAT TENDS TO TAKE ALL ATHLETES AWAY FROM THE
TRACK AND X COUNTRY TO THESE ROAD RUNNING EVENTS, BECAUSE AGAIN IT'S A
QUESTION OF THEM RUNNING TO FEND FOR THEIR FAMILIES. NOW THE ROAD RACES
PAY MONEY BECAUSE EVERY SATURDAY THERE IS A ROAD RACE – YOU PICK UP
R200, R300. SO THEY ARE FORCED TO GO AND RUN THESE RACES IN ORDER TO
WIN MONEY TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES
[PROF CORA – 01 39 51 14] YES
SHE WILL DO SO MUCH BETER IF SHE HAS THE SCIENTIFIC INTERVENTIONS. YES
SHE WILL DO SO MUCH BETTER. BUT WHY DOES SHE HAVE TO RUN SO MANY RACES
JUST TO GET PRIZE MONEY?
[POPPY ON MACHINES]
We took Poppy to a Sports Science centre for an evaluation.
She rarely does gym work and never runs on a treadmill.
She was put through a series of tests to look at her sports potential.
Her heart activity was monitored and the strength of her muscles tested.
Her posture, flexibility and stability were assessed and a guage was used to measure her fat percentage.
[SHOTS OF HER WITH TUBE IN MOUTH AND PLUG ON NOSE]
A running economy test worked out how much oxygen taken in was actually used.
[HER AND FLIP – 05 05 44 03]
Bio kineticist Flip van Zyl was amazed that Poppy weighed only 38kg.
– 05 09 45 22] NOW THE IDEA IS TO STRENGTHEN YOU SO YOU CAN BECOME
FASTER. ONE THING THAT I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER IS THAT YOU NEED
[FLIP – 05 07 11 04] YOU ARE A VERY SKINNY PERSON, YOU
NEED TO ADD MUSCLE MASS. A LITTLE BIT OF GYM TRAINING. SO I'VE
DEVELOPED A TRAINING PROGRAM FOR YOU. I WILL GIVE YOU THE EQUIPMENT TO
TRAIN AT HOME
[05 08 09 15] YOU HAVE GOT A VERY GOOD AEROBIC
CAPACITY. MY PERSONAL FEELING IS THAT YOU SHOULD DO HALF MARATHONS. I
THINK YOU ARE TOO SHORT TO DO 5/10 KM. AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL THESE
DAYS THEY SPRINT THE 5 AND 10 KM'S. BUT YOU HAVE GOT THE CAPACITY TO DO
Van Zyl says if Poppy Mlambo is able to build up her strength, she could compete in future Olympic Games.
UP: FLIP VAN ZYL – 05 12 57 05] IT NORMALLY TAKES ABOUT 6 TO 8 YEARS TO
BUILD A PROPER CARDIO VASCULAR BASE, SO I WOULD SAY TO PREPARE HERSELF
[POPPY – 01 06 44 16] IT'S MY WISH, EVEN IF THIS YEAR I DIDN'T GO TO THE OLYMPICS, BUT 2008, I WANT TO MAKE IT….
SINDANI/ASA – 01 41 28 05] WE ARE HOPING THAT COME 2008, WHEN WE GO TO
BEIJING, WE WILL HAVE ATHLETES IN ALL MIDDLE AND LONG DISTANCE TRACK
[PROF CORA – 01 41 55 00] I THINK IT WILL BE EXACTLY THE
SAME THING IN 2008. IT COULD EVEN BE WORSE. BUT I THINK WE CAN CHANGE
IT AROUND IF WE SPEND OUR MONEY WISELY AND IF WE ACTUALLY DEVELOP HUMAN
CAPACITY OR HUMAN RESOURCES BUT NOT ONLY ATHLETES, WE SHOULDN'T ONLY
FOCUS ON ATHLETES – WE SHOULD FOCUS ON COACHES, ON ADMINISTRATORS, WE
SHOULD FOCUS ON ALL THESE OTHER HUMAN RESOURCES NEEDED AND PULL IN THE
FAMILIES AND FEED IT THROUGH TO THE FAMILIES AND GIVE THE FAMILIES THAT
NETWORK…01 42 24 20..BUT IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE AMATEURS WHO ARE
GOING TO COMPETE AGAINST PROFESSIONALS, OBVIOUSLY YOU WILL BE AT A
DISADVANTAGE…01 42 34 11
[PROF TIM NOAKES – 01 02 33 19] I
THINK SOUTH AFRICA HAS TO LOOK AT WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND IS IT IMPORTANT
TO HAVE ONE OR TWO WOMEN RUNNING WELL IN THE WORLD? MAYBE IT IS. I
DON'T KNOW. BUT THE COST OF ACHIEVING THAT IS ENORMOUS IN THE SA
CONTEXT. IT DOESN'T HAPPEN IN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA BECAUSE THESE
WOMEN GO TO UNIVERSITY, THEY COME FROM WEALTHY FAMILIES, THEY ARE ABLE
TO FOCUS ALL THEIR EFFORTS ON BECOMING RUNNERS AND SOME OF THEM WILL
EARN A LIVING DOING IT. SO THE COST TO THE TAX PAYER IS ESSENTIALLY
TRIVIAL. WHEREAS IN THIS COUNTRY, THE COST IS GOING TO HAVE TO COME
FROM BUSINESS OR THE TAX PAYER AND UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE OTHER
IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO AS WELL. AND UP TO NOW, THE SA GOVERNMENT
PERHAPS CORRECTLY HAS SAID THAT IT'S NOT A PRIORITY FOR US TO PRODUCE
[AD BREAK] After the break, how do Kenyan women do it?
farming town of Iten, in the northwest highlands of Kenya, perches
about two-and-a-half thousand metres above sea level.
Iten is like any other Kenyan village, except for one thing.
The people here, the Kalenjin tribe, are some of the best runners in the world.
Kenya holds more records in long-distance running than any other country.
Kenyan men have been competing internationally since the sixties.
Women, until recently, have been sidelined.
Now, breaking with tradition, more and more women train to become professional runners.
[CUT OUT SHOT OF REPORTER]
There's even a training camp for women runners.
[RUTH CHEBBI] WE ARE LUCKY IN THIS AREA BECAUSE WE HAVE A LADIES CAMP
Just four years old, this high-altitude camp attracts talent from villages all over the highlands.
This is where they start to shine.
CHEBBI] IF YOU TRAIN AT HOME, YOU CANNOT GET TIME TO TRAIN LIKE THAT.
YOU CAN GO TO THE RIVER. YOU FETCH WATER. YOU GO FOR FIREWOOD,
STRUGGLING HARD. BUT HERE, ONLY YOUR WORK IS TO GOT FOR TRAINING. AFTER
TRAINING, YOU CAN RELAX, CONCENTRATING ONLY ON YOUR TRAINING.
camp provides for those without shoes or a tracksuit, three meals a
day, the freedom to run, and the chance to succeed. The camp was
started by one of Kenya's most famous runners, Lornah Kiplagat.
Lornah caught the world's attention when she won the L.A. marathon back to back in 1997 and '98.
She's broken four world records, and broken social barriers, too.
KIPLAGAT] I THINK WHAT I'VE SHOWN THEM, THE GIRLS, IS I'VE GIVEN THEM
A LOT OF COURAGE BECAUSE WITHOUT COURAGE, YOU CAN'T STAND AND TALK:
"YEAH, LORNAH DID IT. WHY NOT US?"
Lornah's trains in New
Mexico. She built her camp in Kenya race by race, funded entirely by
her prize money. She's created an oasis outside the strict defines of
[LORNAH KIPLAGAT] TAKE CARE THAT THE HOUSE IS
CLEAN. TAKE CARE THAT THE FARMS ARE DIGGED. TAKE CARE THAT THE LUNCH
IS READY. TAKE CARE THAT THE LAUNDRY IS READY. TAKE CARE THAT THE
COWS HAVE THEIR OWN FOOD. AND TAKE CARE THAT YOUR HUSBAND HAS FOOD.
THAT'S OUR LIFE, EVERY DAY, THROUGHOUT, 365 DAYS.
People didn't believe that this village girl's career – or her camp – would last.
KIPLAGAT] AND THEY WOULD SAY, "FORGET ABOUT LORNAH. SHE IS TOO BUSY
BUILDING UP CAMPS FOR WOMEN IN AFRICA. BUT I'LL TELL YOU, SINCE THE
MOMENT I STARTED TO BUILD UP THE CAMP IN KENYA, I WON EVERY RACE I
ENTERED. BUT STILL THEY THINK I'M CRAZY ANYWAY, SO I DON'T MIND.
Lornah's camp has changed the lives of many young athletes in Kenya.
One of them is 25-year-old Nancy Kiprop.
She lives in a village on the edge of the Great Rift Valley.
Her husband is the rare Kenyan man.
He cares for the child and let's Nancy run for a living.
KIPROP] THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE NOW, AS A RUNNER AND BEING A WOMAN, IS
MAYBE THE BURDEN OF BRINGING UP CHILDREN, AND AT THE SAME TIME TAKING
UP THE CAREER OF BEING AN ATHLETE.
SO THAT'S A GREAT CHALLENGE
People speculate wildly about why Kenyans are such good runners.
For Nancy, there's much at stake.
top runner can win thousands per race, huge rewards when over half of
Kenyans live on less than a dollar a day. The winners of this 8K race
will move one step closer to the national team.
Nancy comes third, which qualifies her to move on.
KIPROP] TO RUN, YOU HAVE TO SWEAT. YOU WILL NOT WIN IF YOU WILL NOT
SWEAT. YOU HAVE TO SWEAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO TRAIN HARD TO WIN EASILY.
KIPLAGAT] THE GIRLS WILL NOT ALL MAKE IT. THE GIRLS AT THE CAMP, FOR
SURE, NOT ALL OF THEM HAVE GOOD TALENT FOR RUNNING. BUT THE GOOD PART
OF THE STORY IS THEY HAVE TALENT FOR SOMETHING ELSE, SO THAT AT THE
END, IT'S NOT ONLY ABOUT RUNNING, IT'S A WAY OF CHANGING THE WHOLE
LIFESTYLE OF WOMEN IN KENYA. AT THE END, ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU SEE A
DIFFERENT FACE, A DIFFERENT LIFE. AND YOU'RE LIKE: "WOW, IT'S POSSIBLE,
ETHIOPIA: JAN DE KLERK
SOUTH AFRICA: IVAN OBERHOLZER
KENYA: CASSANDRA HERRMAN
VIDEO EDITOR: RIAN GELDENHUYS
WRITTEN&PRODUCED BY: JESSICA PITCHFORD
NARRATION: JESSICA PITCHFORD
THANKS TO: CENTRE FOR SPORT SCIENCE&BIOKINETICS