SPAR Women's Challenge 2019

Tri to keep up with the women in PE's Team Ketsh Up

Members of Team Ketsh Up, from left, Thuthuka Songelwa, Simoné Jordaan, Rebecca “Becky” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i and Phindile Nama get ready for the SPAR Women's Challenge race day on May 4
Members of Team Ketsh Up, from left, Thuthuka Songelwa, Simoné Jordaan, Rebecca “Becky” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i and Phindile Nama get ready for the SPAR Women's Challenge race day on May 4
Image: Leon Hugo

Women who until now have been terrified of swimming in the sea or who have never ridden a bicycle, are joining Port Elizabeth’s Team Ketsh Up training squad in droves to conquer their fears and reach for their dreams.

The fitness movement, started by Rebecca “Becky” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i and her friend Bianca Reichelt in 2016, has grown into a sizeable club whose members swim, cycle and run in triathlon events.

Right from day one, Ketsh Up aimed to shatter stereotypes about African women and, in particular, debunk myths around riding a bicycle and swimming.

“From a trio of ladies determined to learn how to cycle and swim, we are now a group of 101 at various stages of their triathlon journey and the beauty of it all is that they are getting stronger and taking on new challenges,” mom-of-three Becky, 33, said.

We don’t just promote interest in triathlon, it’s a lifestyle, and the SPAR race is one of our flagship events
Rebecca “Becky” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i

“So when we say we conquer fears and break stereotypes, we mean just that.

“We are consistently setting the bar high and pushing the envelope.”

Team Ketsh Up also will tackle the SPAR Women’s Challenge on May 4.

“We don’t just promote interest in triathlon, it’s a lifestyle, and the SPAR race is one of our flagship events,” Becky says.

Ketsh Up slots newbies into training groups according to their level. Beginner cyclists, for example, will join Group A, which meets at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon at King’s Beach, and learn how to ride a bike.

“Group B are more comfortable, they know the bike a bit better and can ride around,” Becky said.

“It’s a whole system but it’s very simple.

“For swimming we have partnered with professional coaches because that can be a life-or-death situation.

“Within six weeks they are ready to be introduced to the ocean.”

Members Ameera Campbell and Rushda Jappie completed the full Ironman African Championship on Sunday April 7, while Becky – who only started triathlon three years ago – now has three “half” Ironman 70.3s under her belt.

Rebecca “Becky” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i
Rebecca “Becky” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i
Image: Leon Hugo

“There is visible progress!” says the woman who has gone from someone who could “hardly save herself in a bathtub” three years ago to a woman who confidently swims close to 2km in choppy seas.

As numbers grew, however, Ketsh Up saw it was not only black women who were felt held back by their fears.

Membership is therefore open to any woman who wants to join and take on the challenge.

It is also free although members must sign an indemnity form.

Phindile Nama and Oageng Malgas help Becky manage the group but along with other volunteers are unpaid because, as Becky says modestly, “there are so many Beckys who want to pay it forward and it’s very rewarding”.

Ironman globally has an initiative called “Women for Tri”, publicised by triathlete Katherine Kelly Lang – better known as Brooke in television’s The Bold and the Beautiful.

“Brooke” took part in the World 70.3 champs in Port Elizabeth in September 2018 and addressed a Ketsh Up workshop.

“She’s still in touch with us and she is designed a Team Ketsh Up kit for us – there’s lots of love!” said Becky.

New Ketsh Up groups are mushrooming in Johannesburg, Cape Town as well as recently in Botswana and Swaziland.

Three of its members share how their journey started:

Simoné Jordaan
Simoné Jordaan
Image: Leon Hugo

Simoné Jordaan

Mercantile Hospital ICU nurse Simoné Jordaan, 38, is a mother of two and lives in Palmridge

I always wanted to run across the red carpet at Ironman so two years ago I entered myself for the 5150 fun tri [short distance triathlon].

I had to face my fears for open water swimming and took some swimming lessons but after completing it, I was totally hooked and decided to challenge myself and entered the 5150 Olympic distance.

Ketsh Up was given the opportunity to train with Team Tissink in prep for the 5150 event in November 2018.

I completed my race, it was a tough, magical day that I will never forget., a life-changing experience.

During my swim I wanted to quit as the conditions were not easy, luckily I was encouraged not do so.

This day made me realise that you can do anything you want to, if you put your mind to it and if you work for it, no matter your shape or size.

It made me realised that it does not matter if you finish first or last, we cover the same distance, get the same medal and run the same carpet – plus I get value for my money as I do enjoy the scenery!

It keeps me healthy and fit, helps me to balance everyday stresses and to motivate other women out there to do what they never thought would be possible.

Phindile Nama
Phindile Nama
Image: Leon Hugo

Phindile Nama

Millard Grange mother of two girls Phindile Nama, 47, is a medical sales representative

I’ve always been a physically active person in terms of sports and gym, and always keen to try something new.

I learnt how to ride a bicycle, swim freestyle, and ocean swim during the first quarter of 2017, just in time to do my very first corporate Ironman as an individual on April 1 as a birthday present to myself.

The journey started when I was spotted by one of the founders of Ketsh Up, while I was running through Kragga Kamma waiting for my daughter to finish her gymnastics class.

I thus became what we fondly refer to as Ketsh Up 1 as I was their very first recruit!

I do this to inspire other women that you CAN learn a new skill, regardless of your age, and that we can all be involved in triathlon, even with limited finances, as we each support each other.

I absolutely love pushing my boundaries – mentally and physically – and triathlon offers that for me, and I enjoy the nature of our beautiful Bay like the ocean, scenic running and cycling routes – and great people!

Thuthuka Songelwa
Thuthuka Songelwa
Image: Leon Hugo

Thuthuka Songelwa

Overbaakens quantity surveyor Thuthuka Songelwa, 39 works in the building environment

I was introduced to Ketsh Up by a friend. I only wanted to learn how to swim and to ride a bike but the next thing I know I was entering the CTC relay in 2017.

Some time I unknowingly made the step from “doing a triathlon” to “becoming a triathlete”.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when this happened – maybe it was when I entered my second Corporate Triathlon Challenge race or finished the 5150 series.

I’ve crossed the point of no return and my new obsession grows every day.

My biggest fears were drowning or sustaining an injury but since then I have not looked back.

Triathlon has opened up a whole new new world of possibilities that has not only tested my physical body but also my mental and emotional mettle.

I have made I have made treasured friendships that are built on the shared experience of being average at something absurdly difficult.

I count myself very fortunate to have had this opportunity.



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