In keeping with tradition, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) ParaSports Club used its annual Women in Sport event to honour “exceptional” women in several sporting disciplines.
Held on Saturday, 8 August, the event focused on women who use sport to effect positive change in society. The event organisers selected three “extraordinary” women to share their stories with the virtual audience.
According to Muya Koloko, one of the organisers, the event is a “celebration” and honours the “unsung heroes” in sport. It also showcases the various alternative sporting paths that sport lovers have embarked on and continue to succeed in.
The theme of this year’s event was “The road less travelled – a life after sport”.
“Normally, the event aims to explore a range of sporting codes out there, and we get guests to share their experiences. It’s also an opportunity to provide exposure to sporting codes [that] students and staff know very little about,” Koloko said.
Traditionally the event’s speaker line-up consists of a UCT sport enthusiast and two external guest speakers – and this year was no different. Panellists included Melissa Awu, a sports administrator at UCT; Princess Schroeder, one of South Africa’s top visually impaired bowlers; and Kathy Lee, the founder of a pole-dancing studio called the Pole Project.
‘There is life after sport’
Awu’s dream of becoming a professional hockey player was dashed when her unemployed mother was unable to afford the costs associated with participating in the sport at provincial and eventually national level.
“I needed to withdraw from the provincial trials because my mom couldn’t afford the fees involved – and that’s what I did.”
“I needed to withdraw from the provincial trials because my mom couldn’t afford the fees involved – and that’s what I did,” she said.
“I knew then that I wanted to go into sports management and … help ensure that youngsters are not held back because of their socio-economic circumstances.”
Once she embarked on her career, which to date has afforded her the opportunity to work for some of the country’s leading universities, she realised that “there is life after sport”.
“I’m living my sporting dream and getting paid for it.”
For the love of bowls
When Schroeder started participating in lawn bowls, it changed her life.
“When I first got involved with the sport, I loved it and have not looked back,” she said.
She described bowls as “relaxing” and said that the country needs more awareness of the sport – at both school and university level.
“Bowls gave me purpose in life and it gave me the opportunity to travel both locally and internationally.”
She has participated in the Commonwealth Games and the World Athletics Championships.
A serendipitous sporting encounter
Lee, a qualified lawyer practising in London, was introduced to pole dancing to help her de-stress after a long, hard day at the office.
“Being introduced to pole [dancing] was a pivotal moment in my life. I was blown away by the grace and strength of pole dancers,” Lee said.
Fast forward about 12 years after that accidental meeting, which included a move to the Mother City after marrying her Capetonian husband, Lee “ripped off her lawyer’s suit” and established her own pole-dancing studio.
“It [pole dancing] changed my life, and today I am committed to changing the stereotypes and fighting for acceptance in the sport.”
“It [pole dancing] changed my life, and today I am committed to changing the stereotypes and fighting for acceptance in this sport,” she said.
“Since making pole dancing my career, it’s helped me make a mental transformation and reinforced my strong sense of self-worth. For pole dancers, pole is so much more than a sport. It brings fulfilments and a sense of purpose money can’t buy.”
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