Nijel Amos: Botswana could dominate world athletics

20170808athletics0422.JPG

At the London Games in 2012 Nijel Amos won Botswana's first ever Olympic medal when he won silver in the 800 metres. In August he came 5th in his event at the World Championships in London. Nijel told Planet Sport's Tom Ellis what it meant to win his country's first Olympic medals and about his faith and hopes for the future. 

Meanwhile, 400 metres runner Baboloki Thebe has his sights set on winning Botswana's second Olympic medal in Tokyo in 2020. At the age of just 20 he is already the African Champion and he came 4th in 400m final at this year's World Championships. He talks to us about his faith, his hopes and dreams and his love for running.

Listen to both interviews here:

'Inspire before you expire!'

IMG_9370.jpg

Stanley Kebenei, representing the USA, came 5th in the 3000m steeplechase at this year's World Athletics Championships in London. On our latest Planet Sport programme, Stanley tells us about his love for the sport and about the qualities needed to become a top steeplechaser. Unlike the USA, Ghana has never won a gold medal at the Olympics. Emmanuel Dasor is a 200m and 400m runner who is aiming to break that duck. He talks about his hopes and dreams and the faith that directs his life.

Listen to the latest Planet Sport, featuring interviews with Stanley Kebenei and Emmanuel Dasor here: 

JP Duminy: 'God looks at my heart, not my performance'

JP Duminy, is an icon of South African cricket, a man who has played 46 test matches, 177 ODIs to date and 71 international T20s. He's still going, and after recently hanging up his test boots, the 33-year-old is now fully focusing on the shorter format of the game.

The all-rounder spoke to us in a Planet Sport exclusive about his journey with the Proteas, including where he likes to tour most, which young stars we need to be watching out for and how his faith in Jesus trumps anything he's ever achieved in cricket. 

Listen to the full interview below:

 

 

 

Quanera Hayes: 'Don't let your light diminish'

quanera hayes.jpg

USA 400m runner Quanera Hayes won gold as part of the USA's women's 4 x 400m relay team at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. Hayes had posted the fastest 400m time in the world this season, clocking 49.72 seconds at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, earlier this year. The 25 year old spoke to us about her sport and strong faith in Jesus during the World Athletics Championships in August. 

Listen to the interview here: 

Ruswahl Samaai: 'I see myself as an Olympic champion, God-willing'

After the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London, we sat down with South African Long Jumper, Ruswahl Samaai to reflect on his Bronze medal at the Champs. We also discuss why South Africa are producing so many quality athletes in the sand!

A talented sportsman growing up, the 26-year-old had options . . ."At first I was a Triple Jumper in high school. I ended up doing Long Jump in 2012. The training for long and triple jump is exactly the same so we made a switch. From then on, right up until today I’ve now just focused on my long jump, so back in the day, I was another Christian Taylor!" 

 

Samaai is part of an elite group of South African long jumpers who are constantly pushing the boundaries of the event, he regularly competes with the likes of Luvo Manyonga, who won Gold at the World Championships, Khotso Mokoena and Zarck Visser, When asked about his recent bronze and the relationship between the rivals, he put it like this:

"I headed to London for the win, unfortunately that didn't happen. Whenever I see Luvo, Zarck or Khotso at a meet my mind starts getting into beast mode. So it’s awesome, we all strive to be better as long jumpers and we all have a hunger to be the best in our country. When I am home I am not competing against any guys, I am competing against the best in the world at every single meet. That builds character."

His competitiveness and drive to be the best is a stand-out attribute to his success, he did however point out another factor in his life that he believes will see him become Olympic champion:

"Faith plays a huge role in my life, let me take you back to the Olympics last year in Rio, I was one of the favourites to win an Olympic medal, I got injured two days before the competition and that completely threw me off. That was not my plan, I wanted to be the best that I could be and execute my plan, I was mentally frustrated and angry at God. It took me a while to trust him fully again, I asked why did you bring me so far and then fail me? It doesn’t make sense. At times I was so angry but after trusting him again everything starting changing and falling back into place."

 

"It came down to be believing in him and knowing that his plan for my life has already been mapped out, the only thing is to get me to fulfilment. After that, I fully committed myself to him and whatever happens this year I have faith on and off the track. It changed my life as a sportsperson and as a person. We have to believe that he has a plan for us and give everything into his hands. I see myself as an Olympic champion if it’s God’s will, I see myself as a world record holder, all of those things are possible."

Ruswahl ended with one piece of advice for aspiring long jumpers:

"All I can say to the young long jumpers out there is to have faith, don’t let the circumstances fool you, God has a plan for your life."

Okagbare counts her Blessings

blessing.jpg

Blessing Okagbare has been winning national, African and international titles since she was 17. Previously referred to as 'Africa's fastest woman', the Nigerian track and field athlete is equally comfortable in the 100 and 200 metre sprints and the long jump. Today, she has an Olympic medal from Beijing in 2008 and is still a major force in world athletics. At the recent World Athletics Championships in London she told us how she first got into the sport, explaining how her strong faith has taught her to be grateful and how it helped her through the tough challenges as well as the joys that come with the sport.

Listen to the interview here: 

'Leading West Indies is never an easy job' – Carlos Brathwaite

West Indies Cricket Captain, Carlos Brathwaite, took time out of his hectic schedule to talk to Planet Sport about what it means to lead his country in the Twenty20 format and how his life is changing rapidly.

Two years ago, the 29-year-old Barbadian was an unknown all-rounder, on the fringes of West Indies cricket, however since smashing England's Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes to win the T20 World Cup for his country, his stock has risen dramatically. He now balances his national commitments with domestic T20 leagues around the world, known for his power-hitting and accurate bowling, Brathwaite has finally hit the big time. 

Listen to the full interview here:

Emmanuel Mayuka: Premier League pro and AFCON winner

What's it like to play in the English Premier League? We'd better ask someone who's been there. . .enter Emmanuel Mayuka!

We caught up with Emmanuel Mayuka, a Zambian football icon. You can currently find him in Egypt playing for heavy weights Zamalek, but before his relocation, Emmanuel spent some time with Southampton in the English Premier League. It's often tipped as the 'best league in the world', so we thought we'd ask him about his experience:

“It was a great experience for me, I thank God for everything and I am still looking forward to coming back again. When I came over it was a dream come true for me, I want more of it but at the moment I am here in Egypt. I will have to see how everything in the future works out. I would like to come back to the Premier League, it’s just a matter of how you apply yourself, it depends on how hard I work and when you believe in God anything is possible.”

 

Mayuka, 26, is full of confidence, a good trait for a striker, and was adamant that he would return to the top leagues in the world. As well as boasting Premier League on his CV, the finisher has also achieved glory at international level with Zambia, he spoke about winning the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations:

"That was the most outstanding moment for me, it feels like it was only yesterday. It was so amazing and I enjoyed every bit of it, when I think about it now it gives me goose bumps. But I am still looking forward for more glory with the national team, I am not old yet!”

He stated that he's not finished with the Premier League or the national team, despite notching over 50 caps for them, the key behind his confidence was clear:

“Nothing is impossible if you believe in it, put all of your eggs in one basket, pray and believe that you will achieve it. You have to believe in yourself and know what you want in life and go for it. I believe that everywhere I go is where God wants me to go."

For Emmanuel Mayuka, prayer + belief = success

 

Who'll be The Best?

IMG_9776.jpg

Last week, we attended the announcement of the nominees for The Best FIFA Football Awards 2017. In 2016, FIFA decided to give the game’s most prestigious individual award a bit of a refresh by introducing 'The Best' – a celebration of those who love the game the most: the fans. 

The awards up for grabs include The Best FIFA Men’s Player, The Best FIFA Women’s PlayerThe Best FIFA Men's Coach, The Best FIFA Women's Coach, The Best FIFA Goalkeeper,  The FIFA Puskás Award, The FIFA Fan Award and The FIFA Fair Play Award. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr made the final shortlist for the coveted Best FIFA Men's Player award, which means we could see Ronaldo take the title for the second year running.

The finalists were announced at a special media event held in London with the FIFA Legends Andriy Shevchenko, Peter Shilton, Jay Jay Okocha, Alex Scott and Roberto Di Matteo.

Former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo provided his thoughts on what it takes to be the best: "To be nominated, I think you need to have success at club level and also at international level with the club. Another bonus is obviously with the national team, if you can manage to be successful with that, certainly gives you a little edge." 

The winners will be crowned at a ceremony in London on 23 October 2017.

 

In interview with Springbok star Pierre Spies

We caught up with South African number 8, Pierre Spies for a Planet Sport exclusive. After a recent announcement to retire, we spoke to the 32-year-old about his future plans and we look back on his memorable moments! Read the transcript below:

Pierre, where did your love for the game of rugby come from?

“In South Africa Rugby is a big sport so when you are young you want to play, my dad also played rugby for the Bulls so we grew up with it. We had a rugby ball at home and in the backyard we would act like we were running over guys and scoring tries. That’s where the love came from and I basically started when I was eight years old.”

You went to school with a few buddies who have now gone on to be greats in world sport, tell us about those guys!

"I come from a boys’ school in Pretoria and I know some proper cricketers, golfers and a well-renowned pianist. AD De Villiers was a year ahead of me and he used to play fly half, Faf Du Plessis also, who plays for the Proteas, Heino Kuhn and many good cricketers. It’s great to be part of a school with some great sports people coming out of it.”

“Absolutely, if you are shooting at a dream then the pinnacle is where you want to be. What’s my goal? I wanted to play for the Springboks from a young age and I was fortunate enough to have it come my way. I played many games and was part of great teams. It was just an amazing journey for me.”

You recently announced your retirement from pro rugby, talk us through that process? What drove that decision?

 “Well, things don’t always work out the way that you planned, I was planning on retiring after the two years left on my contract but when we finished the season I went about praying and God told me that it was my time. So I made the decision to finish my career and prepare for the next part. I think everyone reaches this moment in different ways, for me the moment I made up my mind it was settled in my heart. I can look back on my career with fulfilment and joy.”

When rugby is all that you’ve known for so long, is the prospect of ‘retirement’ from it, scary? It must become your identity somewhat.

 “It does but that’s where I have been quite intentional, you have to make sure that it doesn’t become your identity even though people identify you as that. I was thinking about the day that I would retire a lot and how you want to be remembered, what kind of person you want to be. Something that I also applied in my life was having friends outside of the game which keeps you in touch with normal life.”

You often speak publicly about your faith in Jesus, what was missing in your life, to make you think that you needed to put your faith in something more?

 “I was a young man with a very promising future, but I was living a life of my own, going about it how I wanted and not being focussed. After a lot of partying I reached a point where my conscience started eating me up because I knew the way that I was living wasn’t right. A friend invited me to church and it was a moment that changed the rest of my career, I was twenty years old and I became a born-again Christian. I gave my life to God and said that I would live for him and not for myself. My life was never the same again, he completely turned my life around and gave me fulfilment which is something that sport and partying could not give me.”

 People may say well the only reason you believe that there’s a God is because you were told to think that growing up, what would you say to that?

 “Your parents, whether you believe in something or not, are laying a foundation in your life, so if you are a Christian your parents will lay a Christian foundation, if you are a Muslim or if you believe nothing, you parents are still laying a foundation. But there comes a point in your life where you have to decide for yourself, what you want to believe and what kind of world view you have. For me, that day arrived when I was twenty years old, there had been some foundations laid by my parents but that didn’t make me a Christian. It was the day I decided for myself, not for my friends or my family.”

The Ghanaian Venture

Cape Coast haarbour 2.jpg

My visit to Ghana brought back memories of my school days when I used to collect stamps from Africa. Ghanaian stamps were always very colourful and full of history and true to form: the Atlantic coast-line, colourful fishing boats, castles and forts reminding me of the 18th Century peak in the slave trade, and the warring factions between the European nations battling it out for control of the coastline and the gold hidden inland. It was here in 1957 that Kwame Nkrumah brought some stability to the nation of Ghana as she became the first sub-Sahara country to gain independence.

And it was here where the AbRMedia (Africa by Radio) held their three day Continental Convention, just north of the capital Accra. The theme of the Convention, 'His Story to All People', was taken up by the main speaker Pastor Shodankey Johnson from Sierra Leone who led the assembled media practitioners into considering true discipleship by telling 'His story, His way'. A number of other speakers dealt with the practicalities of fundraising, offering technical assistance to radio stations, a challenge to communicate with children, the best ways of using social media and achieving creative programme making. 

Radio stations were represented at the convention from as far south as Lesotho and as far north as Mauritania, which gave me opportunities to discuss, and offer samples of, the Passion for Sport weekly programmes we produce - Planet Sport and Planet Sport Football Africa

Norman Brierley and PSFA contributor Erasmus Kwaw.

Norman Brierley and PSFA contributor Erasmus Kwaw.

On the Saturday I moved down to Accra itself to join journalist colleague Erasmus Kwaw, often contributing to our Planet Sport Football Africa programmes. A group of 18 young people joined us at the Ghana University in the afternoon to conduct Focus Groups on our programmes. We spent five hours in separate groups listening to four programmes, holding a discussion on each of the productions and then finally each person filling out an evaluation form asking more specific questions about the programmes. We hope this will help the producers improve the quality and interest the programmes raise.

In the following two days, we had great opportunities in visiting local radio stations and their managers in Cape Coast and in Accra to offer programme samples and share about Passion for Sport, discussing plans on how they could include the programmes in their broadcast schedules. Meeting the founder of seven radio stations in Ghana and Uganda gave us the opportunity to place the Planet Sport Football Africa programme on one of the stations the following Saturday.

The Ghana venture was not to stop there as, en route by taxi to the airport for the return to England, my taxi broke down with about a mile to go. The kindness and support of Ghanaians came to the rescue as I hardly got out of the taxi with my luggage and another taxi behind agreed to take me the extra mile to the departure gate!

Norman Brierley

Natasha Hastings: 'I never give up'

WAC_Hastings_Natasha.jpg

"I want my journey, through my experiences, to be a testimony of what God's done for me."

USA track and field athlete Natasha Hastings first came to prominence as a 16 year old when she won the girls' 400m at the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada. Since then she has progressed into a 400m relay specialist, helping the USA team to win two Olympic and five world titles, most recently at last month's World Athletics Championships in London. Now 31, she talks to us about the joys and challenges of her career over the past 15 years and the strength she draws from her faith as a committed follower of Jesus.

Listen to the interview here:

DR Congo's M'Poku: 'I felt peace and joy I'd never had before'

Paul-Jose M'Poku is a name familiar to fans across Europe. The 25-year-old has played in England, Italy, Greece and is now in Belgium with Standard Liege. A forward with undoubted skill, at national level M'Poku chose to represent DR Congo over Belgium, he speaks about how he doesn't regret his choice and much more in an interview with Planet Sport.

Listen to the interview here:

'Shot Diva' Carter on the greatest love

"The way I'd like to be remembered ... is that I cared and that I loved."

Michelle Carter from the USA won the 2016 Olympic shot put title in dramatic fashion, overcoming New Zealand's Valerie Adams with her final throw to win the gold medal and with it claim a new American record. Michelle talked to us at the recent World Athletics Championships in London where she won the bronze medal about her role as Team Captain to the US team at the event, her passion for her sport and the difference that her faith as a follower of Jesus Christ makes to her life.

Listen to the interview here:

 

 

Prayer for Radio Maranatha

Hurricane Irma has has caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2m people. (Photo: NOAA)

Hurricane Irma has has caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2m people. (Photo: NOAA)

This week we read the tragic news that Hurricane Irma has killed at least five people and left a trail of destruction on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin – home to one of our radio station partners, Radio Maranatha 100.3*.

A plane comes into land at St Martin's world-famous airport.

A plane comes into land at St Martin's world-famous airport.

According to reports, the island has been 95% devastated by the storm, which has seen winds of around 175 mph (290 kph) cause widespread damage across several small islands in the northeast Caribbean.

Passion for Sport has been in touch with Radio Maranatha station manager Milan Berdier, who expects them to be off the air for around 2-4 months.

We continue to pray for peace, safety and hope for the staff and ministry of Radio Maranatha – and for those across the island who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma – as they begin to rebuild their station, homes and lives.

 

*Radio Maranatha 100.3 broadcasts Planet Sport at 07:00 every Friday.

Jacob Heppner: Sport of CrossFit on the rise

Meet Jacob Heppner, a professional 'CrossFitter', which is a thriving and growing sport, birthed in the USA. In his words, it can be defined as- "essentially, the sport of fitness, all about testing how fit you are in a lot of different areas".

The annual CrossFit Games is the pinnacle for all athletes, the winner of which is crowned the 'fittest man/woman alive'. Being a competitor from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 games, we spoke to Jacob about the surge of interest around the globe and what motivates him to compete. 

Listen to the interview here: