Madibaz student-athlete Cheneal Raubenheimer hopes her selection for the South African indoor hockey side sets a benchmark to which others in the province and her community will aspire.
The 24-year-old will make her debut for the SPAR Proteas at the African Indoor Cup in Durban from April 15 to 18.
The tournament, which also includes Namibia and Botswana, serves as a qualifier for the World Cup in Belgium next year.
Raubenheimer lives in Schauderville in Port Elizabeth and felt her national selection was important from several standpoints.
“It really means a lot to me because I’m representing the Eastern Cape, which is not recognised as a major indoor hockey province,” she said. “So it’s great to get that recognition.
“Secondly, I hope that my selection brings a message to the community in which I live, which is faced with deep socio-economic challenges.
“Especially for the younger generation it shows that if you really want something, you can rise above whatever stands in your way.
“It’s never about where you’re from, it’s about where you’re going, and that should always be the focus.”
The third-year BA student’s selection is the culmination of a long journey, which started as a fun game with her brother using broom handles.
“At the time I was at Erica Primary in PE and hockey started off as a sport in our physical education classes,” recalled Raubenheimer.
“I remember enjoying the feel of hitting the ball as far as I could and getting rewarded with sweets from my Grade 2 teacher.
“Because I enjoyed it so much, when I got home I would get my younger brother to play with me in our backyard using stones as hockey balls and the house brooms as hockey sticks. We’d just try to dribble past each other.
“I would be eager to finish my homework so I could show my mom what we did during the phys ed lessons. It was then that I realised that I really enjoyed hockey as a sport.”
Raubenheimer’s family moved to Butterworth when she was 10 years old and then to East London before she ended up back in Port Elizabeth, where she is currently doing her final year in development studies and economics.
Her talent was recognised by the national selectors when she was chosen for the SA U18 and U21 outdoor hockey teams, during which time she attended the Youth Olympic Games in China in 2014.
“That was definitely the highlight of my career,” she said. “It was an awesome experience.
“But I think making my debut in a few weeks’ time for the national women’s indoor side is also going to be one for the books and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I intend to learn from this tournament as much as I can so I can prepare for the challenges ahead and continue to develop with the team.”
Madibaz Sport hockey manager Cheslyn Gie said Raubenheimer’s selection was just reward for hard work.
“It shows how motivated she is to achieve at a high level and her perseverance has paid off,” he said.
“Cheneal has improved her fitness and is in the best shape I have ever seen her. Her selection will inspire many youngsters from our province to take the indoor game more seriously.
“As we are unable to train normally due to Covid, it also demonstrates that our off-season training programmes are working and it speaks volumes for our coaches at the club.”
Gie added that Raubenheimer’s selection showed it was possible to excel in academics and on the sports field.
“She is a dedicated student and has done extremely well to achieve academically and on the indoor court. It underlines what you can do with proper time management.”