This year’s World Under 20 Athletics Championships have been postponed to August 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and South African sprinter and hurdler Antoinette van der Merwe will now miss out on her last chance to medal as a junior athlete.

Antoinette caused a stir in athletics circles earlier this year when she clocked a time of 11.49 seconds in the 100m event during the Athletics North Gauteng Championships held at Tuks. Her time was the fastest by a South African junior sprinter in the last two decades, setting her up for a strong showing at the World Championships, but the 19-year-old’s dreams of the international stage this year were dashed by the coronavirus spreading around the globe.

Not giving up!

Though she has been denied an opportunity to pit herself against the world’s best in the 100m, 200m and 100m hurdles disciplines, Antoinette’s stellar performances have resulted in 95 offers of full scholarships from foreign universities keen to align themselves with the up-and-coming superstar.

Munya Maraire, CEO of World Wide Scholarships (WWS), says Antoinette will likely have her pick of the world’s top universities to further her studies and train alongside other elite athletes. WWS facilitates such opportunities for local athletes in order to give them maximum opportunities to make the most of their talent.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division in the US is well known as the world’s most competitive stage for top athletes. At every global athletics event NCAA regulars are on the podium, so this would be a good opportunity for Antoinette to gain experience and skills with the world’s best, which will hopefully translate into future medal hauls in South African colours,

says Maraire.

A former Hoërskool Elgoraigne athlete and current Tuks sprinter, Antoinette stands to benefit from scholarships that would cover academic tutoring, world-class training facilities, a wide range of medical services and full kit from top international sponsor brands.

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One door shuts, exploring other doors.


The postponement of the World Junior Athletic Championships 2020 to August 2021 due to Covid-19 has been a huge disappointment for me.  In 2021 I will be too old to compete at a Junior level.  As an athlete with future aspirations of representing South Africa at a senior level at the Olympic Games and World Championships I am currently exploring different options to further my athletic career,

said Antoinette.

My coach, Wimpie Nel, is a huge part of the process and we will only consider a move if the option can assist me in reaching my goals, as I am currently extremely happy with my coaching team, training partners and with running for Tuks University here in South Africa. 

I have had the honour of speaking to some of the world’s most decorated coaches about training ethos and about their possible plans for me if I joined them.  Some of the options would give me the opportunity to train with current Olympic, World and NCAA top athletes.  Seeing them being interested in my accomplishments to date is really very humbling,

concluded Antoinette.