Tshepang “Mpho” Makhete

Hammer Throw Athlete

Hammer throw is very much an event in which East European countries such as Hungary, Germany and Russia reign supreme. But watch out for Tshepang Makhete – he could change all that.

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old learner at the Sasolburg Technical High School (STHS) hurled 76.34m, which put him among the world’s top five athletes. He was also voted the male athlete of the meeting at the South African School Championships in Polokwane, where he hurled a record-breaking 70.67m in the under-19 hammer throwing division. He was second only to 18 times South African champion and hammer throw legend Chris Harmse (who is more than twice his age) at the South African Senior Championships. Makhete finished an impressive sixth at the World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, last year.

Makhete, who is known as Mpho to his friends, first took an interest in hammer throw as a primary school learner watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Shortly after trying his hand at it, he began attending the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and Sasolburg Technical STHS Hammer Academy. (Harmse, who Makhete looks up to, also trains at the academy.)

The academy is run by Basie Koen, who has national colours for the weight throw, a track and field event that is similar to hammer throw.  Koen is the dean of the sport academy at VUT, which partnered with the high school to initiate a community outreach programme at the school.

“This is his ‘baby year’ for the under-19 division – next year he’ll still be competing in that division so he can move up over 80m,” says Koen. “He has great talent, he took on my advice about technique very quickly, and he has a lot of speed and a lot of determination; I think he can go a long way in the future.”

Makhete is humble about his achievements, though. “I’d say all this has happened by the grace of God – it’s difficult to believe, I still can’t grab hold of coming sixth at the World Youth Championships.” — Fatima Asmal