In August 2003, a new women’s cricket star was born in South Africa. At the age of 14, Johmari Logtenberg became the second youngest Test player of all time, when she made her Test debut for the Proteas women’s cricket team.
Logtenberg was a special all-round talent, who was destined for great things in cricket. She worked hard on her craft and was hungry for success at the highest level.
In 2004, she scooped two leading amateur awards at the SA Cricket Awards, winning the Khaya Majola Amateur Cricket Award and the Women’s Cricketer of the Year award, standing side-by-side with the leading men’s awards achievers.
South Africa hosted the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 2005, and Logtenberg was determined to do keep up her personal momentum. The teenage sensation set high goals, which didn’t materialise. She and the team copped criticism, but that didn’t stop her from pushing on to be a better player.
In 2007, she experienced some of her greatest cricket highs. She scored her maiden ODI century against Pakistan to become the youngest South African to score a hundred in international cricket, a record which stood for nine years until the prolific Laura Wolvaardt broke it at the age of 17, against Ireland.
Logtenberg’s last ODI was on 5 August 2007, against the Netherlands, in which she scored her second century – 153*, took 2 wickets in 4 balls, and was involved a world record partnership of 224* with Mignon du Preez.
The reality for her was that women’s cricket as a professional career option wasn’t moving quickly enough, while women’s golf was gaining a reputation as the fastest-growing women’s sport in South Africa at the time.
After painstakingly weighing up her options, Logtenberg decided to go with her gut and pursue a new career in golf. That same year, she won the B division of the SA Women’s Amateur Golf Open in 2008 in welcome confirmation of her decision, this after only playing golf seriously for three months!
In April 2011 however, her hopes of going to the end of year European Ladies Tour qualifying school was shattered, when she started experiencing severe ankle pain, which made walking unbearable. After consulting experts, she was diagnosed with a bilateral talo-calcaneal coalition, which spelled the end of her career as a competitive athlete.
The odds notwithstanding, this champion refused to give up, instead pushing ahead with her studies, and obtaining her Masters in Technology: Chiropractic.
In 2018, Dr Logtenberg graduated with 39 distinctions from Durban’s University of Technology to start her new career, and moved to Tzaneen to open her own private practice. Now, Dr Logtenberg is paying it forward, by helping others deal with their physical ailments.
It has been an incredible journey for this outstanding woman since meeting Australian women’s cricket legend, Mel Jones in Mamelodi in 1998, being inspired to become an international cricketer, to changing careers to golf, and finally settling as a medical professional.
In this interview with Kass Naidoo, Logtenberg opens up on her challenging journey, and how she has found fulfilment in being of service to others as a Chiropractic doctor.
Johmari, how are you, it has been a long time since gsport has chatted to you?
Hi Kass, it is so nice to reconnect again with you. Yes, it has been a couple of years since our last correspondence.
In fact, the last time we chatted you were announcing your retirement from cricket to take up golf. That was back in 2008. What happened after that big decision?
Wow, it is true what they say, time does fly! In January 2008, my golfing journey started with a move to Johannesburg. It was a fresh start, a fresh challenge which I really enjoyed. In a space of 8 months I went from a driving range “hacker” to a 3 handicapper.
Unfortunately, my ambitions of going to the end of year European Ladies Tour qualifying school was shattered in April 2011, when I started experiencing severe ankle pain which made walking unbearable. I consulted with 3 orthopaedic surgeons on the matter. I was diagnosed with bilateral talo-calcaneal coalition.
“After discussions with my family, I decided against the surgery and packed away my golf bag for good.” – Former Proteas Women cricketer and golfer, Johmari Logtenberg
Two of the orthopaedic surgeons refused outright to operate due to my young age, the severity of my condition and the poor long-term prospects for the required surgery. In their opinion, operating would only relief the pain, but that it would also start a cascade of future operations.
The third orthopaedic surgeon suggested that he can operate, but then I would only be able to return to competitive golf in two years’ time and the “fix” would probably only last for 10 years. After discussions with my family, I decided against the surgery and packed away my golf bag for good.
In 2012, I started as a first year Chiropractic student at Durban’s University of Technology. In 2018, I graduated with 39 distinctions and obtained my Master’s in Technology: Chiropractic. I then moved to Tzaneen, in order to be close to my sister and family and opened up my own private Chiropractic practice.
How tough was it to leave cricket?
It was very tough. Growing up my dream was always to be a professional cricketer. I played provincial cricket since the age of 8 and learnt how to juggle the demands of cricket and academics at school. 2007 was a massive year for me, I was writing matric and we had two International series, one which ended 2 weeks before my trial exams.
It was extremely difficult to perform on both fronts, but with a fantastic family and support system at school, I managed to score 2 ODI centuries and matriculate with 5 A’s and 2 B’s.
It then came to a point where I had to choose a career path. I always had an interest in the medical field but at the same time I wanted to be a professional athlete. I knew the intense demands of the Chiropractic course as my sister was a fifth-year student at the time.
You had to complete roughly 40 subjects in five years, of which the majority had both a theoretical and practical component. Not something you easily catch up if you were away for a couple of weeks on an international tour…
I knew that it would be nearly impossible to juggle both at the same time and perform at the highest level. Performing below my capabilities on the cricket field would be a dishonour to the Proteas badge and my fellow teammates. At the same time just passing the subjects wouldn’t be acceptable to my future patients who will put their health and trust in my hands.
“As South African women’s cricket was still an amateur sport at that time, I had to decide whether I would continue playing cricket and find some other odd job to pay the bills or study Chiropractic which I could make a living. So, I had to choose between my heart (cricket) and my brain (Chiropractic).” – Logtenberg speaks on deciding her career path
My dad approached the KZN cricket union and asked whether they will be able to assist in finding a solution in which I could do both. Unfortunately, we were told that they didn’t have a good existing relationship with the Chiropractic department at the Durban University of Technology and that I would be on my own.
As South African women’s cricket was still an amateur sport at that time, I had to decide whether I would continue playing cricket and find some other odd job to pay the bills or study Chiropractic which I could make a living. So, I had to choose between my heart (cricket) and my brain (Chiropractic).
So, in the end I went with my gut and started my golfing journey after cricket. As ladies golf was the fastest growing sport at the time, its future was bright, and I could achieve my dream of being a professional athlete.
What made you initially fall in love with cricket?
Just being able to smash a ball as hard as you can and run for your life!! At the same time, it was also the camaraderie you felt when playing as a team and playing for each other.
Who were your cricket heroes at the time?
Wow there were a few! Every wall in my room was covered with posters! Based on who I idolised initially it had to be Jonty Rhodes for his agility and energy, Shaun Pollock for that cheeky smile, Hansie Cronje for that classic slog sweep to cow’s corner and leading from the front, and Alan Donald for the fast-brutal pace and aeroplane celebrations.
What was the transition to golf like?
It was much harder than I expected. So many different aspects which made it a great challenge.
On the technical side I had to undergo intensive technical correction with regards to my swing path, putting, pitching, and chipping. With regards to physical training I had to transform my body to a golfer which required more core strength, explosive power, and flexibility.
On the mental and course management aspect I had to learn to read greens, how to develop a game plan, playing in different weather conditions etc.
But the biggest and most difficult transition was the one from a team sport to an individual sport.
What were some of your sporting highlights?
Wow there are so many. Of course, making my test and ODI debuts in England at the age of 14 and having my parents there to witness it was the pinnacle! I remember receiving my ODI shirt and just standing staring at it in disbelief that my surname was on the back of a Proteas Women’s playing shirt!
“Scoring my maiden ODI century against Pakistan on the same club ground I started my cricket career 9 years prior, was very special and gave me the believe that I belonged on the international stage.” – Logtenberg speaks on her sporting highlights
Scoring my maiden ODI century against Pakistan on the same club ground I started my cricket career 9 years prior, was very special and gave me the believe that I belonged on the international stage. Then there was the unforgettable day against the Netherlands in which I scored 153*, took 2 wickets in 4 balls, and had a world record partnership of 224* with Mignon du Preez. Ironically, that was my last ODI.
Winning the B division of the SA Women’s Amateur golf Open in 2008 after only playing golf seriously for three months. Another big one was scoring my one and only hole-in one at the 13th hole at the Rustenburg golf club during the SA Women’s Amateur golf Open open in 2011.
What were the main lessons you learnt along the way?
Believe in yourself even when no one else does. Don’t be afraid to dream big, as long as you plan and work towards making that dream a reality. You are bound to encounter obstacles and challenges along the way, but these are just opportunities to learn from and make you stronger.
What was your initial feeling when you were told you could not focus on sport professionally?
Disbelief and confusion. As an athlete you know that injuries are part of the game. Normally you get injured, you get treatment, you do the rehab and you go back to training and playing. This time, there was no treatment and there was no going back to sport. And for a long time, I couldn’t accept that.
Chiropractic studies was always part of the picture over the years. Was it an easy decision to make when golf didn’t work out?
Yes, it was to a large extent. I had a passion for the medical field and for helping people. I first went to a chiropractor when I was 11 years old so I was very familiar with the profession as well as the impact it could have on one’s health and sporting career.
As my sister studied it, I also knew exactly what the course entailed and its demands.
Furthermore, I was also aware that there were opportunities available to specialise in sport’s chiropractic which would then allow me to combine my love for medicinal sciences, sport and helping others.
What is life as a chiropractor like?
It is hard work but very rewarding. Working with people who are in pain are challenging and can sometimes be emotionally taxing, however you have the opportunity to change that and have a positive impact on their lives! No day is the same. You meet a big variety of people with an array of personalities and injuries which are constantly keeping you on your toes as well as entertained.
As the work is very physical, it is important to keep your body healthy and strong.
By law we are required to obtain a certain amount of CPD point per cycle, thus I am constantly doing webinars and reading the latest research in order to improve my knowledge and keep up to date with the latest treatments. This allows me to provide my patients with the best current treatment protocols for their conditions and getting them to thrive.
When you look at how cricket is now turning the corner in terms of prioritising the women’s game, do you wish you stuck to cricket or at least had a better shot at it?
I am in awe of how women’s cricket has changed! It is just incredible! And I think a big reason for this is due to people like yourself and many other unsung heroes behind the scenes.
It would have been incredible to play in the professional era. If I had a wish, I would have wished for better ankles and to have the opportunity to make my debut in 2014 instead of 2003!! So yes, I wished I could have had a better shot at it.
“Since I was small, we knew there were something wrong with my ankles. I had my first orthopaedic consult before the age of 7, but my parents were told that hopefully I would outgrow it.” – Logtenberg speaks on her condition
Since I was small, we knew there were something wrong with my ankles. I had my first orthopaedic consult before the age of 7, but my parents were told that hopefully I would outgrow it. For the majority of my cricket career I experienced severe ankle pain and stiffness following the game and the day thereafter.
For me this was normal and as I was doing what I loved, it was “acceptable”. The day following the game it would take me 10 mins to “warm up” my ankles and then I would then hop along for about 30 mins before I could finally walk normally.
For that reason, I don’t think my body would have been able to cope for much longer if I had stuck with cricket to be honest. I’m currently 31 and unable to walk, let alone jog 2 km without being in intense pain for at least two days. Fortunately, I have found that I am able to participate in cycling and swimming without aggravating my ankles too much.
How disappointing was the 2005 World Cup for you and how much did it contribute to you leaving cricket?
It was very disappointing as a team and as an individual. I set myself unrealistic expectations and goals for that World Cup. I wasn’t mentally strong enough at that stage to deal with the expectations created by the media as well as the external and internal pressure. As a whole it got the better of me and resulted in below average performances.
I did receive a lot of criticism for my poor performance during the World Cup by various people, but I used it as a learning curve and to fuel my fire; improve, which in the end showed in the results of 2007.
Would I say it contributed to me leaving cricket? No. But after the World Cup I took a short break from cricket and started hitting golf balls on the driving range. This could have been were the seed was planted potentially for taking up golf.
How far has South African women’s cricket come?
It has been incredible to witness this transformation! When I made my debut back in 2003 in England, I remember spending hours trying to wash the grass stains out of my pants in the hotel bathroom as there was no money for laundry services.
Slowly but surely things started to change and with each year there were improvements, from having sessions with a sports psychologist or having a technical video analyst.
“I can only see great things for the future of South African women’s cricket.” – Logtenberg points out that the future looks bright for the Momentum Proteas
Looking at the set-up now, I can only see great things for the future of South African women’s cricket. The results the ladies have produced over the last three years are testament to that and excites me for what is still to come.
Looking at women’s sport in South Africa, what do you think needs to be done to raise the profile?
Personally, it comes down to two aspects namely exposure and financial backing.
Exposure as in TV time, getting crowds to the games and getting the players to interact with the kids and general public. I played cricket for three years before I even knew there was a SA women’s cricket team. I was convinced that one day I was going to be fielding next to Jonty in the covers!
I remember attending a training session organised by the Northern’s cricket union, probably back in 1998 or 1999 in Mamelodi, where I met Mel Jones and she ended up doing throw downs with me. That five mins of interaction with her, inspired me to work harder and follow my dream. Then there were the quick chats at games with legends such as Linda Olivier and Karen Smithies that just kept that passion going.
So, for me seeing my heroes and interacting with them inspired me and similarly I think as we get more and more girls playing the game they love, the profile will grow.
Of course, financial backing will also help improve the profile. I think that was the biggest driver of the transformation we have witnessed in women’s cricket in the last six years.
Who are your favourite sportswomen and why?
As a youngster my favourites to follow were Steffi Graf and Penny Heyns. I just loved their composure and how they were down to earth regardless of their incredible achievements. Of course, Penny was also a south coast girl.
Currently I follow every game of the Women Proteas of course. I love watching the explosiveness of Lizelle Lee from the front, the technical perfection of Laura Wolvaardt’s batting, the pace, swing and control from Marizanne Kapp, the agility and commitment of Mignon du Preez and the pure unfiltered passion for the Proteas badge of Dane van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismael.
Someone I also follow closely, especially when it is Olympic time, is “Sussie” better known as Sunette Viljoen. I first met Sunette when I was probably 15. At that stage she just ended her cricketing career and was starting to focus on javelin. To have seen how hard she has worked to make her dreams come true and how she fought what she believed in, has been incredible.
What is your advice to someone for who playing sport has not worked out and they are still struggling to move on?
God has a plan with each person’s life and sometimes He closes one door but then He will always open another. So, if one dream didn’t work out, it isn’t the end of the world and it wasn’t a waste of time or effort.
Rather see it as an opportunity to learn lessons, grow stronger and find a new passion and start working towards that. I know how difficult it is to move on, but by taking it one day at a time and having a great support network around you, you will succeed.
Twelve years on from last chatting to you, it is good to reconnect. Any plans to get involved in South African sport at any level going forward?
One day definitely. Currently my focus is on completing my postgraduate studies and getting my practice settled. We have a very talented cricketer and javelin thrower in our small town, Elandri Janse van Rensburg, who I have spent some time with. I really do enjoy teaching kids about the finer arts of batting, how to read the game and how to develop mental strength.
What are your thoughts on the growth of gsport since you last encountered us?
gsport has just gone from strength to strength each year! It has broken glass ceilings and really given female sport a platform to launch from and get the much-needed exposure it deserves. It has also given the recognition to those behind the scenes who fight and drives women sports forward, which is lovely.
I remember you telling me about your new baby, namely gsport, back when it just started. And I really have to commend you on an incredible job you have done! You do deserve an accolade or a key to a city for what you have done for the female sport community. And at the same time, you are an incredible role model to so many kids with regards to having a successful career and having a beautiful family. Take a bow Mrs Kass Naidoo (Meiring)!
What has sport taught you?
So many valuable things…You are never bigger than the game. Stay humble as one day you will cease to exist, but the game you love will continue. Thus, the game must always be honoured and played in good spirit of sportsmanship.
Life is easier and more entertaining when you surround yourself with a good team. Life has its ups and downs, but when you have a good team around you, you will conquer the downs together and celebrate the ups!
Talent only takes you so far, the next levels are reached through hard work and dedication.
Each “failure” is a new opportunity to grow and improve.
Photo 1 Caption: The highly driven and hard-working Johmari Logtenberg’s sporting prowess was abruptly brought to a halt when she was diagnosed with bilateral talo-calcaneal coalition in her ankles, however it did not stop her from obtaining her Masters in Technology: Chiropractic. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: In 2018, Logtenberg graduated with 39 distinctions from Durban’s University of Technology as she ventured to start her new career, moving to Tzaneen to open her own private practice. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: It was not an easy decision for Logtenberg to give up her sporting career. She had always dreamt of becoming a professional cricket player from the time she began playing provincial cricket at the age of 8. Photo: Supplied
Photo 4 Caption: She was able to live her dream while playing for the Proteas Women’s side, however she suffered with the agonising pain in her ankles. Photo: Supplied
Photo 5 Caption: In 2008, after representing the Proteas from her ODI debuts in England at the age of 14, Logtenberg turned focus to playing golf to lessen the pressure on her ankles but keep her sporting career alive. That too, was cut short. In 2011, Logtenberg was officially diagnosed with bilateral talo-calcaneal coalition condition. Photo: Supplied