ANDREA IS UNPRECEDENTED

"I believe one’s hurdles are more a part of the journey than the medals".

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"The difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is how you manage and navigate the season."

Andrea, heyyy. Where are you currently?

I am currently sitting in my car in the parking lot of the medical campus, just smashed out a training session and on my way to the library to study for my next big exam.

Let’s talk about how you got into running, specifically track, tell us more about that?
I grew up in a very sporty family, my dad was always involved in cricket, and my earliest memory is sitting next to the cricket field most weekends. It’s actually quite funny because my dad loves to tell the story of how I was definitely not the sporty child growing up as I couldn’t catch or pass a ball. I started out in a very different sports area; I played netball in primary school and was determined to get better. I would say from a young age this is where my determination to improve started.

Overall, I took netball quite seriously, playing Western Cape netball and being placed in provincial teams. Even though I took netball seriously, my earliest track memory was with my grandfather, who was a great 800m runner and I was very close with him, he would pick me up and take me to Coetzenburg every day after school for training sessions where he would watch and observe from the stands.Basically, I continued with netball and athletics and in high school played provincial netball and nationally for athletes. I then had to decide which sport to pursue as the training became overwhelming. I chose athletics after I won SA schools and SA youths at 15, which is when my serious athletic journey started!

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You are mainly focused on long-jump – okay so what is long jump and how far we are jumping?

 Yes! So, I specialize in long jump, and I occassionallyyy do sprints. In high school I was on the athletic team and did all the events, which I loved, but I was always better and enjoyed long jump more.
 I also do the 100m and 200m but not as often as I would like too. In May this year my personal best is 6.44 which I jumped at USSA, and I received gold first place, and silver at SA, which I jumped 6.21. It has been very exciting to see how much I have grown, and I am so excited for what is to come and my potentially and what I could potentially tap into.

You got injured this season; can you tell us about that? How did it affect your season?

 It would be wrong not to touch on my injuries from a few years back first. When I was 15, I won SA school/youth, which was a great season that showed us what was possible and that the sport is what I wanted to pursue. But the following year when I was 16, I got a grade 3 hamstring tear, very devastating as expectations were built and I was in the mix and amongst the best in the country. The next year came, and I fractured my foot, again another whole season. This was very challenging as a young school athlete as you don’t always have a lot of patience with yourself, and the school needed me to compete, but I maintained the 2 year setback, injury, and season and believe it really set me up for how I viewed my athletic career going forward. In that year going through rehab, I would constantly drive passed the athletics track every day, as I would go to the gym at the back of the track, and felt so jealous of the athletes running and jumping while I was doing the same movements for about 9 months.
I believe that I learnt a lot through these challenges, and it made me more mature as an athlete. This didn’t mean I wasn’t frustrated or had my moments whilst being injured. Now looking onto this season, I feel I am set up in a way which I can handle injuries in the future.
 This season specifically I injured myself, a grade 1 hamstring tear (I clearly struggle with my hamstrings), and the timing of this injury was so frustrating as I was strong, adjusted in the gym, was lifting heavier weights and I had switched into my preseason program.. With my academic schedule and balancing work and athlete life, there is a fine line between the time you have for your academics and an injury simply threw a spanner in the works with taking away from my training time, as it was 3 weeks out from USSA’s.
I am very grateful for my team around me, I have a strength and conditioning coach and a physio who guided me for USSA’s by writing a day-to-day plan of how I must train and what % I should run to not worsen my injury or form. My coach said to me “an athlete would give this injury a 3 week recovery period” and weirdly at the time USSA’s was 3 weeks a 1 day away so this was challenging. In saying this, I lean a lot on my faith, and I view it as something that is not in my control and to understand why this may have happened. It has helped me a lot to learn to trust beyond that, and especially discipline. My injuries have taught me to show up against some of the countries greats, to have mind over matter mindset, and to really show up with confidence and know what I am capable of!

Injuries often affect us mentally even more mentally than they do physically, how did it affect you mentally and do you have some tips for athletes (everyday athletes too) who are currently side-lined due to injury?

 To any athlete, I would say that any setback IS tough and to acknowledge it. Do not beat yourself up about a hurdle in the road. The difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is how you manage and navigate the season. I believe one’s hurdles are more a part of the journey than the medals and the highs, and the beauty of the journey is in those moments where you are wrestling yourself and you must dig deeper. View the hurdles as something to learn from, knowing and trusting in the beauty of discipline, walking out of the season stronger whether it may not be physically but emotionally and spiritually as all these aspects work together and make a great athlete perform.

“I don’t know of someone doing that”

Soo, let’s get into your other sport, uni- how’s it goinnng?

Uni is going well; I really enjoy my course. It goes without saying that it is tough and challenging, like any degree, but I know that this is what I want to be studying, with the goal of becoming a doctor is what I want to achieve at the end of the day.

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Before starting university, you were often told that pursuing a career as a medical doctor whilst participating in competitive sport would be impossible. How’s that looking for you? Are you achieving the impossible?

Before starting medical school, I was very unsure on whether I could do it and I think this had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t really know of anyone who had done both it before. Even the transition from high school to university is scary in itself and making it in senior sport in SA was challenge.

Most of the responses I got from people on this topic were “ones got to give” or “you have to kiss your career goodbye” or “I don’t know of someone doing that” which challenged me a lot, and with many conversations with my parents I didn’t know if I could do it.

From my 1st year at university, I was seeing where I could take athletics, simply getting through it, and with a lot of sacrifices and behind the scenes work, I just believed in making it through each year. I recently had a conversation with my dad, and he said to me “Would you have believed yourself if you told matric Andrea that you would be a 4th year medical student competing nationally and going international?” and I said, “Definitely not”. I now believe my journey is about achieving the impossible and its incredible what you can achieve when you put your mind to something. I feel privileged to have supportive parents and coaches, which puts me in the position to achieve what I can in my academic and sporting career. The hope with pursuing the journey, is to make sure that whoever comes after me can see that it is possible, and no one can cap your potential. 

"I have learnt the beauty of tapping in and leaning on community."

Okay but like how are you managing it, what does your typical day look like?

No day looks the same - It is very much a balancing act, where I would have my lists of what to do with academic priorities. I live weekly by my little tick list! A very big help that has made pursuing these journeys as amazing as it is, is the community I have on campus being my friend group I have at Res that make such a big difference. Whether it’s coming home from a late track session, and someone has made dinner for me or going to a training session with someone, and in-between rest and recovery sets they are the ones quizzing teaching me the terms for muscles. It has been amazing to see how the Lord has blessed me and I am very grateful for that. I am also in an encouraging relationship too. My boyfriend is also a medical student (5th year), and he will always join for a session running next to me to keep my pace or sending videos to my coach. I have learnt the beauty of tapping in and leaning on community.

You're entering the off season, yeah? What goes down in off season?

I am training and prepping for one more competition in July, CUCSA (Confederation of University and College sport SA). After this I will be taking a break for a month and then getting into off season training. Off season training is where the bulk of your work is set out of you, running hard and long sessions, a lot of speed and endurance, a lot of hills, a whole bunch of running over and over again. I have a great group of guys who are national and international athletes, and I always try my best to keep up with them and their pace. I do enjoy off season training as you get to bond as a group and cheer each other on, going through all the motions together.

 Any goals for next season?

I’ve reflected on previous seasons where I felt I was a bit hard on myself. I was chatting to my brother, and he asked me “Andrea is your goal to win medals and be on the podium every season or is your goal growth?”. I found this was a question that stuck with me. My goal for this journey is to continue growing and growing in the sport, and in saying this I mean in fitness or athletics, where I could jump further to be a better athlete. I want to emphasise the point of my goal also being to “continue growing”. Another more specific goal would be the World Student Games that is happening in Germany in July 2025. It is a huge goal to make the team and I am wanting to work very hard in off season working towards this!

"there is so much that lies ahead and is available to you on the other side of hard work."

What’s a motto that you go to when things get a bit tough?

This is something very cliche but “nothing worth having comes easy””.

This is something my dad would always talk me through, as any sportsperson gets to where they wanted to be through all the tough challenges, hurdles, or injuries. I believe that if it was easy everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be worth the success. I always say, “you need to go through the valleys to appreciate the mountains”. I remind myself this every day and know that there is so much that lies ahead and is available to you on the other side of hard work.

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Did someone say, daddy?

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As a med student and track athlete, Andrea has mastered the art of walking a tightrope between stethoscopes and sprinting shoes. She takes us on a rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows of simultaneously pursuing two vastly different passions. From navigating pesky injuries to juggling the demands of medical studies and athletic training, Andrea's journey is nothing short of a wild, exhilarating race.