Cape’s unsung Rio hero



August 18, 2016
Cape’s unsung Rio hero

DREAM: Tony Alkana competed on the worlds biggest stage at Rio Olympics

Parents of SA hurdler Tony had to sell boerewors rolls to get him to Olympics.

While the world was caught up in Wayde mania, this Cape Flats outjie quietly snuck into the semifinals of the 110m Men’s Hurdles at the Rio Olympics.

Antonio ‘Tony’ Alkana may not have qualified for the finals, but his mom and dad couldn’t be more proud watching him on TV taking on the big guns.

Antonio came 7th with a time of 13.55 in the semis.

But unlike 400m gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk, who flew over 10 relatives to support him in Rio, Antonio’s parents cheered him on from their couch in Eerste River.

His dad Edward puts up billboards for a living and his mom is a housewife.

The 26-year-old’s parents held community fundraisers where they sold boerewors rolls to raise money for his trip.

Gail and Edward say their nerves were klaar, and their nails afgebyt, as they watched their youngest son run the race of his life.

PROUD: Dad Edward and mother Gail cheered their son on from home

In his race early yesterday, Antonio was first out of the blocks, and cleared his first hurdle with ease.

Unfortunately he could not keep ahead and ended seventh behind winner Omar McLoud of Jamaica.

He is currently the African champion in the 110m hurdles after winning gold at the African Athletic Championship which took place in Durban in June.

He beat defending champion Tyron Akins of Nigeria in a Championship record time.

Proud mom, Gail, 55, says her heart was pounding and her palms sweaty as she rooted for her boy.

“It looked like he got a skrik when he was leading the pack, and that was too much for him,” Gail jokes.

On a more serious note, the mom of three adds: “I do not have the words to describe the pride I feel and I have been stunned by his achievements since the day he started running at Silversands Primary School and later at Malibu High School in Eerste River.

“All these years we have supported him, but until I watched him on the international platform, I did not realise how good he is. I am proud of what he has done.

Antonio is part of the Bellville Athletics Club, where he trains and competes, and Gail says: “Tony has never wanted to do anything but athletics and to see your child do well when you sacrifice to help him attain his dream, makes me the proudest mother in all the world.”

Dad Edward, 55, says he was sorry they could not be in Rio.

“I sat in front of the TV watching him warm up for all his races. I don’t think anyone can understand how much I wanted to be with him to show my support. I sent him a WhatsApp message to tell him we are watching him and we love him,” he says.

“He travelled to Rio all alone and couldn’t even look up to the stands to see his family there.

“He does this well because his entire family supports him and he has a fantastic coach, Marshall Otto, at the Bellville Athletics Club.”

Until very recently Tony did not have a sponsor and because he is a full-time athlete, it has made things a little difficult financially.

But then sportswear giant Nike came on board, and fundraisers by his club and his family also assisted in getting him to Rio.

Edward says: “It brings tears to my eyes to realise how Nike and Bellville Athletics Club have helped him.”

When asked what is next for the family, Edward says they will now work on improving Antonio’s time to get him ready for the next Olympics.

“The work will start immediately when he gets back. His focus will have to shift to improving his technique. He has to bring that time down to 13.30. He has done the race in 13.28 already and must work towards breaking the world record of 12.80.”

Gail adds: “He did not have to win to make us proud. The mere fact that he was there representing his country and his family makes him a winner to me.”

Antonio, who returns home on Friday, did not respond to Daily Voice queries.

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