Word’s fittest woman inspires pupils through sport

Australian sports star Tia-Clair Toomey

The Australian sports star Tia-Clair Toomey, who is known as the world’s fittest woman, and her friends surprised Zonnebloem pupils last week with a morning filled with skipping, sprinting, obstacle courses and soccer.

Toomey, along with her American-based Travel Fit Tours and their “fitcation” tour group, and local partner, the Motley Crew Crossfit Gym in Green Point, visited pupils at Zonnebloem Boys’ and Zonnebloem Girls’ primary schools in District Six on Thursday January 31 to “give back” to local children who have limited sporting opportunities.

More than a hundred children took part in the morning’s activities.

Travel Fit Tours co-founder Jordan Chabinsky, from America, said they had started the group to bring people together in an active way and have a positive impact.

He said they understood the importance of exercise, especially with children spending an increasing amount of time on their phones or in front of a computer.

“It is important for children to have healthy and active role models,” he said.

Mr Chabinsky said they had come together as they shared a mutual love for cross-fit and decided to use their skills to inspire a fit and active generation.

The girls’ sports teacher, Austin Kriel, said it was a great experience for his pupils as they did not meet many international visitors, especially female athletes they could look up to.

“Everyone is not academically strong, and this shows them that there are opportunities for them in the sporting realm,” he said.

Mr Kriel said he wanted to introduce more of this type of training in the school’s sports programme – to bring about diversity.

Toomey is the 2017 and 2018 international Crossfit Games champion, as well as a Commonwealth Games weightlifting gold medallist and Olympian. She said the visit was a fantastic but humbling experience.

“They were so happy and energetic, and it’s so awesome to see they have an opportunity to learn and develop at Zonnebloem.”

Sports coach Brent Shield, who is passionate about providing sporting opportunities for underprivileged children, approached the Otto Foundation, a non-profit working with schools in District Six, which, in turn, got the local schools on board.

The Otto Foundation is a public benefit organisation that works with schools in District Six, including the twin Zonnebloem Boys’ and Girls’ primary schools.

Project director Karen Breytenbach said it had been their mission to help improve the literacy, numeracy, and the emotional and physical well-being of the children.

“We feel very strongly about the holistic support of the young children who go to school here, most of whom commute from the townships at 5am on empty stomachs every morning to seek a better education in town. But the schools are still under-resourced and many of the children come from low-income families, so they need help.

“These kids are amazing, energetic, creative and full of life – and they really deserve to be provided with opportunities, especially sporting opportunities,” she said.

Ms Breytenbach said they had limited resources, but were determined to help give the children access to coaching, equipment, space, and opportunities to play various sports for fun and competitively.