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sports

Neck and neck at Turffontein Racecourse

#Gauteng52, Week 24: Turffontein Race Course

Welcome to Week 24 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Turffontein Racecourse in southern Johannesburg. My home town, Baltimore, is a horse-racing town. The Preakness, one of the three jewels in the Triple Crown, happens every year at Baltimore’s Pimlico Racecourse. Somehow I never went. I attended a few steeplechase-type races in rural Virginia, but never made it to a legit city racetrack while living in America. Finally, two weeks ago, I had a real day at the races at Joburg’s Turffontein Racecourse. Welcome to Turffontein, which means “turf fountain” in Afrikaans. Turffontein is ancient by Joburg standards — founded in 1887 (just a year after the city itself) by the Johannesburg Turf Club. I definitely felt the history there and loved the way the Joburg skyline looms behind the racetrack. A view of the city behind Smart Mart (#5), who was warming up before his race. I bet on Smart Mart because I liked his name. I learned three important things at Turffontein: 1) Photographing horse-racing is hard. 2) Betting on horse-racing (and winning) is even harder. 3) Riding a […]

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How (Not) to Jump Off a Stadium

The Commonwealth Games, an Olympics-like sporting competition involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, are headed to Durban in 2022. The 2022 host city won’t be officially announced until September 2015, but it turns out that Durban is the only bidder. (Edmonton, Canada, initially submitted a bid but later withdrew it.) So…yay! It’s not 100% confirmed but the Commonwealth Games are most likely coming to Africa for the first time ever. (Incidentally, the Olympics have also never been held on African soil. WTF? This needs to change.) Last weekend I was invited to Durban, along with a few other journalists/bloggers/instagrammers, to do fun things in the city and create some hype for the Commonwealth Games bid. Mainly we hung around Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup and one of the most beautiful stadiums in South Africa. Looking up at the roof of Moses Mabhida Stadium. See that narrow walkway going across, near the top of the frame? Store that away for later. Our morning started with breakfast on the Durban Beachfront, which is one of my favorite places to hang out in Durban. I drank a smoothie and watched the cyclists roll past, soaking in the sun. Durban beachfront Instagram. […]

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An Authentic Joburg Afternoon

I recently had a Twitter argument with a guy who said he thinks Joburg “lacks authenticity”. I never got to the root of what he meant (Twitter isn’t the place for complex debate), but I’m glad the argument happened because it got me thinking about what “authentic Joburg” is. My experience last Saturday afternoon, on the last day of the Joburg City Festival, illustrates what “authentic Joburg” means to me. Weekend travelers in Gandhi Square, posing for a photo as I pulled up in a Joburg Squirrel tuk-tuk. The lady on the right was indecisive about whether to wave or cover her face.

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Help Us Rebuild the Hillbrow Boxing Club

On Tuesday evening I received this text message from George Khosi, coach of the Hillbrow Boxing Club: there is an accident at the gym the ring is damaged by a tax coach It took me a while to figure out that “tax” meant “taxi”. When I arrived at the gym the next day, it all became clear. George and his ring. I nearly cried when I saw this.

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Girl Boxers Kick Ass. Part 2: The Champs

Part 2 in a series about professional female boxing. Read Part 1 and Part 3. In my previous post, I showed you photos from the early fights of last weekend’s “Power to the Women” professional boxing tournament. Those first few fights were entertaining, but they paled in comparison with what was to come. This tournament included two “title fights” — fights in which one fighter was the current South African champion in her weight class, and the other fighter was challenging her for that title. The first of the two title fights was between Gabisile Tshabalala, the current South African junior featherweight champion, and her challenger, Nomvelo Mgcaba. When Gabisile came dancing into the ring to a tune by Zahara, with an entourage of trainers dancing around her, I knew this would be interesting. The crowd in the gym had suddenly swelled. It was loud.

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Girl Boxers Kick Ass. Part 1: The Undercards

Part 1 in a series about professional female boxing. Read Part 2 and Part 3. I knew I would write a blog post about women this weekend. Initially I planned to attend yesterday’s Slutwalk Johannesburg and write about that. The Slutwalk would have made a great photo-op, as well as a newsworthy blog post after U.S. Senator Todd Akin’s idiotic and misogynistic remarks about “legitimate rape” earlier in the week. But I got off to a slow start and didn’t make the Slutwalk. Luckily I had a second chance to celebrate female awesomeness yesterday. In the afternoon I journeyed to the Brakpan Indoor Sports Centre for the “Power to the Women” professional boxing tournament.

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Raging Whoremones Reign Supreme

A few years ago, I wandered into a sports arena in Virginia’s D.C. suburbs and discovered roller derby.  The Cherry Blossom Bombshells and Scare Force One — the top two teams in the DC Rollergirls league — were cruising around an indoor skating track, elbowing one another, dodging body checks, wiping out, and getting right back up again. It was a kick-ass dance on wheels. The skaters wore short skirts, heavy makeup, and fishnets. There were lots of tattoos, blue and pink hairdos, and bruises. I was enchanted. I dressed up as a roller girl for Halloween that year. (I bought skates specifically for the costume. I only fell down three or four times.) But after that first magical evening in Virginia, I never made it to another DC Rollergirls event. Shame.

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Ballroom Boxing

Last week I went to my first-ever professional boxing match, in a ballroom at the ritzy Sandton Convention Centre. The evening included six fights with boxers from around South Africa. The ring was set up in the center of a ballroom, surrounded by well-heeled spectators who ate a fancy dinner while watching the fights. I — along with the rest of the Hillbrow Boxing Club crew — hung out at the back in the standing-room only section. The event was named “Rumble on the Rock: A Tribute to Nelson Mandela”. We weren’t on a rock though, and Madiba was nowhere to be found.

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Boxing on the Streets of Yeoville

I went to another boxing tournament last weekend. This blog has been flooded with boxing posts lately and some of you may be tiring of all the bloodsport. But I can’t get enough. The training, the fans, the camaraderie, the coaches…Boxing is a major part of my life now. As James, one of George’s trainers at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, told me recently: “You have boxing in you.” I think he’s right. Me and George, my coach, at the Hillbrow Boxing Club a few weeks ago. (Photo: Tertia Smit)

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Fight Club, Part 2

Second in a two-part series. Read Part 1. “Hi champ i am going to have tournament on 5 may. coach” George Khosi, trainer at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, sent this SMS to my friend Anita and me a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what he meant so I ignored the message. Anita, on the other hand, tapped a quick response: “Does that mean I’m fighting?”

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Fight Club, Part 1

First in a two-part series. Read Part 2. Yesterday there was a tournament at the Hillbrow Boxing Club. It was my first time watching a live boxing competition. Young kids competed, as well as youth and adults. There were eight three-round bouts. Seven of the fights were male fights and one was a female fight. One of Saturday’s youngest competitors.

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Stories from Camp Sizanani

Last week I visited Camp Sizanani, a summer camp for vulnerable children and youth. Camp Sizanani, sponsored by Global Camps Africa, puts on several camps a year — both day camps and residential camps — for kids in Joburg. (Read about my visit to Camp Sizanani’s day camp last year.) Last week’s overnight camp took place at a retreat in the Magaliesburg Mountains. There are many things I want to write about this camp. I want to write about how, 30 minutes after I arrived, I was splattered head-to-toe with mud as the campers romped in a mud bath. (I wore mud-splattered pants for the next two days.) My pants were never the same after this moment.

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