South African road-running legend Blanche Moila has received the coveted honour of being the 2023 gsport Hall of Fame inductee. Moila was celebrated at a prestigious luncheon in Sandton, supported by former inductees and past winners at the Momentum gsport Awards stage.
Moila is a trailblazer who ran during the apartheid years, breaking down racial barriers in the 1980s. She was awarded Springbok colours in 1984, making her the first among Black South African woman to achieve the distinction of representing their country.
An Icon who has Broken Barriers and Stigmas
She has broken barriers and stigmas often attached to Black, female athletes. Her tenacious attitude has seen her amass an endless list of achievements, including participating in 18 Comrades Marathons.
“It’s very humbling. I didn’t expect this honour. I’ve had a long journey in athletics. So I appreciate it. I really do. It is a great deal to me. I think there’s an inherent need in all of us, in every human being to be appreciated for whatever worth one has, so this just shows that gsport appreciates my journey and what I’ve contributed towards sports,” the mid/long-distance runner said.
Moila has held national titles and records over various distances, receiving many awards for her achievements as an athlete.
Nike There from the Start
The track icon turned heads in her distinctive white turban, etching her name in history. As a result, after 40 years, she had Nike see value in her talent & stance in donning her headgear that they put their iconic swoosh on it.
“With Nike coming on board in 1984, it was really special for me because at the time I probably didn’t have enough finances to get shoes and stuff like that. I was a nursing student. They came along and embraced my talent. As women, sponsorships have always been hard to come by, so if you got a sponsor you really appreciate it. You also want your sponsors to benefit from the deal. It should be a win-win situation.”
A superstar of her time, the Polokwane-born Moila is a former Senior Psychiatric Nurse by profession. She highlights the importance of balance: “ You need to know how to balance it holistically and healthily too. Time was important, my nursing as well as my running. You have to make sacrifices, sometimes sacrificing your social life – there would be days where you’d celebrate after races, but my mind would be at the two careers – academia and sports.”
While we may still have a long way to go in the sponsorship and professionalisation of the women’s game, Moila literally ran so other athletes could fly. “Women’s sport has certainly come a long way since then. We’ve seen Momentum supporting gsport, organisations like Spar doing a lot for women’s sports through events like the 10km and Netball. We appreciate these efforts but it would be great to see more corporations come on board and offer individual sponsorships for women.”
Comrades Marathon Association Chairperson, Mqondisi Ngcobo paid tribute to the running icon, “It is with a huge sense of pride and joy that we congratulate our South African road running legend and 18-time Comrades Marathon finisher, Blanche Moila on her induction into the gsport Hall of Fame for 2023.”
“MaMoila is a ground-breaker who’s inspired generations of female athletes to dream big and achieve their goals. A pioneer in the field of athletics, she defied the odds by breaking down racial barriers with her outstanding achievements; and notably, being the first black South African female to be awarded Springbok colours.”
The gsport Hall of Fame has since inducted 16 other iconic figures who have paved the way for the current generation of female athletes.
Photo Caption: Celebrated at a prestigious luncheon in Sandton early September, South African road-running legend Blanche Moila has been lauded far and wide since receiving the coveted honour of being the 2023 gsport Hall of Fame inductee. Photo: Jay Caboz (c) gsport4girls 2023