The Ebbs and Flows of Being ‘Youth’ in SA – Captured by Young gsport Award Winners 

‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ These are some of the words shared by three formidable young athletes as SA celebrates Youth Day: Kaitlyn Ramduth, Alicia Khunou and Kyra van Kan. All Photos: Supplied

In 2024 South Africa celebrates 30 years of democracy. 30 years of South Africa learning how to move on from a painful past that forever shapes our present and future. With Youth Day holding a heavier significance this year, young people who were born well after the 1976 Soweto student uprising are also weaving their way to a future that looks far different from the hurtful apartheid days. 

gsport, through the Momentum gsport Awards and its other platforms in Mzansi, has unearthed and told stories of young people that will reshape and redefine what it means to be South African. Kaitlyn Ramduth, born 2006, has in recent years set SA’s youth structures ablaze making her mark as a future tennis star. Hailing from KwaZulu Natal, Ramduth was crowned the SuperSport School Sport Star of the Year in 2020, at the #gsport15 awards. 

“Being recognized by other women in sport was a huge honour for me because as a woman sometimes things can be very difficult/unfair, but with the encouragement and support from the other women it makes all the difference in the world!”

Kaitlyn Ramduth

She has been the top U18 female tennis player in KZN and held top spots in the country’s junior rankings. In 2021 she again dominated the courts and those winning performances brought her back to the coveted stage of Africa’s longest running women’s sports awards.

“I think definitely more events like the gsport awards would be great, not just for the recognition, but to associate ourselves with other people with our similar interests and goals!

“Attending the gsport awards helped me make lots of contacts and friends, I think it was such a huge opportunity for me and my tennis to put myself out there and be amongst other great women in their respective categories.”

2023 SuperSport School Sport winner at the #gsport18 awards Alicia Khunou, embodies “black girl magic”. In discuss and shotput, she has really put SA on the map. No stranger to the gsport stage, she echoes the words shared by Kaitlyn after she attended and won on SA’s biggest sport night. 

“In terms of growth as an athlete, I just have to admit that a lot has happened since the award ceremony, these months allowed me to grow as a person. I was given the opportunity to reflect on so many experiences this season, and that allowed me to improve myself, and work towards improvement.”

Alicia Khunou

“Attending the ceremony was very special, and impacted me in so many ways. As women we have to constantly prove ourselves in society. To be amongst women who have went through the highest highs and lowest lows to achieve their respective achievements, and make name for themselves, motivated me to keep working hard and focus on being myself.”

Since her crowning night Ramduth says elevating within the tennis space has had its growing pains. “Life has been a roller coaster since then. It was not going very well after that, as I moved coaches and everything. However, I am very happy to say that things have finally settled down now, and I’m back on my A game. I think I’m playing very well and improving a lot.”

Another young athlete and certainly a role model like Ramduth and Khunou, is golf prodigy Kyra van Kan, The leading junior golfer was crowned the Emerging Athlete of the Year after a stellar period on the golf course in 2023. Since then she’s seen major advancements in her golfing career.

“Life has been very busy since the 2023 gsport Awards. I matriculated from High School last year and have been touring South Africa, playing in many golf tournaments. I have done very well this year, winning the South African Stroke play Championship, GolfRSA International Championship, the Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational and the 72 Holes Championship.”

Kyra van Kan

“By winning the Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational, held at Leopard Creek Golf course, I was exempted into the Women’s Amateur Championship in Ireland, and a few other professional events around Africa. I will be leaving to go compete in Ireland at the Women’s Amateur at the end of June. This is where the best in the world compete for the ultimate trophy. I am also preparing at the moment to leave to the University of Tennessee, as I start my degree in August.”

Van Kan reflects on what it was like to grace the gsport stage and win the gong: “It was an unreal feeling. To be recognised on such a high stage and by everyone for all the hours of work I had put into my sport was amazing. I have never felt such a thrilling feeling before. To be recognised as a role model and inspiring person to many people was truly incredible.

“It opened my eyes to believe that if you can do wonderful things you will get rewarded and, most importantly, noticed for it. The gsport Awards made me feel very special, and I hope to go back one day.”

Every now and then the older generation tends to worry about the future of the country and if the youth will uphold the values and take South Africa to new heights as we move further away from our complex past. Time and again, young trailblazer like Ramduth, Khunou and van Kan show that the future of SA is in good hands. 

These three consummate young athletes honour and respect the work from previous generations that has led to them today representing a rainbow nation that attempts daily to find unity amongst each other.

“I think Youth Day is finally a day where our generation gets acknowledged for what we are doing, and I think the older generation respect it,” 

Kaitlyn Ramduth

Van Kan added: “I believe if I didn’t get pushed and motivated by my elders, I would not have been as successful as I am today. The youth is the world’s future and I think if we motivate them in the right ways, they can grow into spectacular athletes and people.”

Double Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist beautifully captures that times are a lot different for today’s youth and thus they should be given grace by the older generations. “Our youth is on this adventurous journey to constantly find ways to improve things around us, things like technology plays a significant role in how we view things. 

“The youth has different approaches on so many things and just because the youth decides to implement channels like say ChatGPT to make our lives easier does not make us lazy. Generations should understand that every generation will have their own challenges and that these challenges will not necessarily be the same.”

Kyra van Kan

As we commemorate the 1976 uprising Ramduth urges the youth to never give up.

“Keep fighting for whatever it is you want in life. Your only limitation is your mind. and no matter what anybody else says, and no matter how much people try to bring you down, you just have to keep going and remember who you are doing this for!”

“As I like to always say, those people that try to bring you down, use that as motivation, because they don’t have what you have!”

Kaitlyn Ramduth

The reigning Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational winner van Kan believs everything falls into place despite challenges and disheartening obstacles. 

“Do what you love and just go with the flow of life. Don’t worry so much as everything will work out in time. You can’t force anything to happen and whatever comes your way is meant to be.”

Future Olympian Alicia says she would like to see more women building women up. “Sport comes with its own setbacks therefore we have to be able to stand together as women and support each other.”

“I would like to tell the youth be themselves, never let society try to fit you in a mould. There are so many different routes to get to the same destination. Not to be cliché but it IS TRUE that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Alicia Khunou

“You will be surprised to see how far a dream with the right amount of dedication and passion can lead us.”

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