IT is usually the boys who follow in their dad’s footsteps but NMMU BEd Intermediate Phase student, Natascha de Villiers, 23, is an exception to the rule.
The Kamma Park lass was only four years old when she started joining her father, Leonardo, a top SA runner in the 80s, on his training jogs. He started training her when she was seven and since then she was hooked.
Leonardo, 46, was the 800-metre champion in 1983 and the 1500-metre champion the following year. He also broke the national record in the 1000-metres in 1983 and 2000-metres in 1984. He represented SA at the world champs in 1983.
The EP junior record Leonardo set in the 1500metres 29 years ago, and junior record for the 1000-metres four years later still stand.
Natascha only took up running seriously when she was at DF Malherbe where she matriculated in 2007.
She went on to win gold at the Eastern Province championships from 2003 to 2007 in the 1500-metres.
She also won gold at the Eastern Cape Champs and finished fifth in the national championships in her matric year.
Last week she was in the Eastern Province team which won the silver medal at the SA Cross-country championships in KwaZulu-Natal.
While her favourite distance is 1500-metres on the track, Natascha also runs the 10km and 4km cross-country races.
She spends at least three hours daily, six days a week on her training routine under the supervision of her father and coach. She says “he has a very strict programme”.
When she is not training Natascha loves spending quality time with friends and family.
She also has a part-time job at the wedding venue, Running Waters.
Her father, Leonardo, who is an official coach at NMMU and is also coaching EP’s develoment teams, has always been her coach.
“She is still young and has a bright future ahead,” the proud father said.
“We have a three- to four-year plan, which includes an South Africa cross-country gold medal along the way.”