Teen sensation Viwe Jingqi sprints from Eastern Cape to global stardom
17-year-old made headlines last week when she broke the SA under-18 100m record three times in seven hours
SA's new sprint sensation, 17-year-old Viwe Jingqi, trained most of her life by herself on the rolling hills of Engcobo in the Eastern Cape until a Tuks talent scout spotted her on the rare occasion when she travelled to an athletics championship in Gqeberha.
“My running has improved a lot since I moved here [Tshwane]. I mean, in my village no-one was telling me about my running and where I needed to improve. When I got here, I was told that for you to be faster, you have to change or improve this or that.
“When I was in the Eastern Cape I didn’t see any problem with how I was running, but when I got here they gave me room for improvement,” the bubbly teenager told Sunday Times Daily in an interview.
Rising sprint sensation Viwe Jingqi talks about her move from Engcobo to Tuks at the start of 2020, says her star could've started rising back then had it not been for Covid-19 and how her to the nation's capital has opened doors for her.@TimesLIVE caught up with her at Tuks. pic.twitter.com/JlsYc4FWew— Tiisetso Malepa (@TiisetsoMalepa) April 8, 2022
“I actually got people to show me what you have to do to be a professional athlete. Where I am right now compared with where I was back home has improved my life a lot.”
Jingqi made headlines in the past week when she broke the SA under-18 100m record three times in less than seven hours. A Tuks Sport statement said: “She ran 11.40s during the heats. Jingqi was even faster in the semifinals running 11.36s. But she kept her best for last in the final when it really mattered. She clocked 11.22s and won the title.”
It’s a new SA junior record, breaking Marcel Winkler’s under-20 11.25 record set in 1989.
We caught up with Viwe Jingqi on the grand stand of her stomping ground, Tuks Athletics Stadium. She told @TimesLIVE about her aim to reach the 100m final at the World Junior Championships in Colombia later this year, and her first time meeting Caster Semenya at Tuks, and more. pic.twitter.com/AHdWpGGeDe— Tiisetso Malepa (@TiisetsoMalepa) April 8, 2022
“At the moment, she is the fastest under-18 female 100m sprinter in the world. Only seven senior athletes have been faster so far this season.”
Jingqi is over the moon about her performance at the SA Junior and Youth Athletics Championships in Potchefstroom last Friday, saying she is loving being in the spotlight.
“I actually enjoy doing this,” she says during an interview with Sunday Times Daily on the grandstand of the Tuks Athletics Stadium on the University of Pretoria campus. “That’s what I have been working for and been wanting.”
SA's rising sprint sensation Viwe Jingqi. 👌🏿— Tiisetso Malepa (@TiisetsoMalepa) April 8, 2022
She broke the SA 100m U18 record three times in seven hours last week, clocking 11.40 seconds in the heats, 11.36 in the semis and ramped it up to 11.22 to win the final in Potchefstroom. She sat down for an interview with @TimesLIVE. pic.twitter.com/AacDlGobXk
Jingqi, who grew up in the Engcobo village of KuBeyele, said she started running fast last year when she broke an under-18 record at the Twizza Super Schools meeting in Ruimsig.
“When I started to run fast, like very fast, last year I was like, why is SA not recognising me? I need this recognition,” Jingqi said with a chuckle.
“Now that I have it, I must hold it with both hands and actually appreciate it and enjoy it while it lasts because it doesn’t last forever.
“The attention and interviews don’t make me tired at all. I can do it all day. I don’t mind.”
Jingqi said her father was an athlete and he was the one who inspired her to take up running when she was 10 in 2015.
Jingqi was running for the love of it in the hills and valleys of Engcobo and was not even aware there were organisations such as Athletics SA or organised schools athletics. This was until Tuks Sport scouted her at the junior national championships in Gqeberha in 2019, one of the few competitions she could get to from her remote village.
When the 2022 South African athletics season started the national records for Girls U18 were 11.54 and the U20 record were 11.25. The U18 record were set by Mari-Lise Furstenberg in 1983 and the U20 record by Marcel Winkler in 1989. On the 19th February Viwe Jingqi improved the U18 record with a time of 11.47, but on Thursday 31 March she rewrote history by improving on this three times: Heat - 11.40 (-0.3) SF - 11.36 (+0.5) Final - 11.22 (+0.2)
Jingqi thought it was a dream when she was told she would become a Tuks pupil and athlete the following year, until she was given a student card.
She said she arrived in the heart of Tshwane, full of dreams, and was devastated when three months later Covid-19 changed everything, halting training for the better part of that year.
“I was hurt because I had a lot of plans for 2020 and I was slowly getting to where I want to be and, boom! We had Covid-19 and didn’t train for about six or seven months.
“It ruined my plans, but I told myself that this too shall pass. If I got an opportunity to exercise or jog during those lockdowns days I would take it. That’s how I’ve kept myself fit at that moment but it messed with my plans.”
Her move from village to city life was a shock to the system and transformed all aspects of her life.
“When I was told that I’m going to be a Tuks pupil and athlete, that’s when I told myself that you’re actually getting to what you have always wanted and just keep going, this is only the beginning.
“When I was in the Eastern Cape, I would see how many professional athletes come out of Tuks and I always told myself that I want to go there.
“For a girl like me, it actually opened more doors, because back home girls don’t really participate in athletics.
“It probably got me out and away from the bad things that girls of my age can get up to if I was still in the Eastern Cape.”