Never-ending dream for EC hockey star

Kathryn Kimberley

THE fairytale for an Eastern Cape hockey star, who hails from a Graaff-Reinet township, continued this week when she was informed her mother would be sitting among her supporters at the London Olympic Games.

Sulette Damons, 22, is the striker for the South African women’s hockey team.

She was delighted earlier this year when she was told she had been chosen to represent her country at the 2012 London Olympics.

And her success has spilt over into the small Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet.

Her alma mater, Union High School, together with the Old Unionites’ Association, displayed their pride by raising funds for Damons’s mother, Frances Buffels, to travel abroad.

Buffels is a general worker at the senior boys’ school hostel.

“She has been a dedicated employee at the school for a long time and has become a mother figure to many of the pupils. We thought it was only appropriate to give back to her,” school principal William Pringle said.

He said the school was immensely proud of what Damons had achieved.

Together with the Old Unionites’ Association, made up of former pupils and their parents, the school managed to raise enough funds for Buffels to travel to London to support her youngest daughter for the duration of the Olympics.

Buffels flies to London on Thursday. Her accommodation and pocket money has also been provided for.

“I am so excited. It was supposed to be a surprise but Sulette had to send some information through for my visa, so she obviously found out,” an excited Buffels said ahead of her first-ever trip abroad.

The youngest of three sisters, Damons grew up in a cramped house in Umasizakhe Township on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet.

Described as a “tomboy”, Damons learnt how to strike a ball playing with the township boys on the dusty gravel roads.

Her mother had worked as a domestic worker for a Graaff-Reinet couple, who recognised Damons’s hunger for success and agreed to fund her schooling at Union Primary and later Union High School.

It was not long before Damons wowed hockey coaches on the field. She went on to captain both her school and Eastern Cape hockey teams.

She was selected for the SA U21 team in 2008 and made her debut for the Proteas team in 2010.

Buffels said she was grateful to Union and all those who clubbed together to make this dream a reality.

“From the very beginning, locals believed in my daughter. Without their financial and emotional support this would not have been possible. I just want to say thank you to everyone,” she said.

The South African women’s hockey team play their first match against Argentina on Sunday.

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