Otjiwarongo-born former heptathlete Corlia Kruger, now Maritz, is one of those cases of a daughter continuing where her mother left off on the athletics track.
Kruger’s mother and sister inspired her to strive for more by challenging her to achieve her own personal best performances. Between the three of them, they hold all the national records in the heptathlon.
Although the talent was evident, it was not until her final year at primary school that she made her presence felt on track by winning her first medal.
“Athletics was very much in my genes. My mother Santie Kruger was a truly talented athlete and my father coached her. My father continued coaching even after she retired. Naturally, most of my childhood was spent next to an athletics track,” says Maritz.
“Those years were also filled with competitive sprints against my siblings and lots of jumping on the high jump mats. Things changed for me after winning my first medal in athletics in my final year at primary school. I knew then that athletics was something I wanted to pursue.”
The rest, as they say, is history because the brunette from Walvis Bay High School went on to become a national record holder in the heptathlon.
After moving with family to the harbour town in 2006, where she also finished high school, she never looked back after she was included in a national event at the age of 14, when the Southern African School Sports Associations (Cosassa) Ball Games were hosted in Windhoek.
“I specialised in heptathlon at the age of 16. It was a natural progression for me once it became difficult for me to choose events before the competition season, considering that I medalled in five events at national championships – both junior and senior – in the previous year.
“Heptathlon is a very special track and field event. Training for a combined event consisting of two sprints (200m and 100m hurdles), two jumps (high jump and long jump), two throws (shot put and javelin) and a middle distance (800m) is extremely vigorous,” she says
She points out that the highly competitive nature of the event allowed her to continue challenging herself, which is why the heptathlon will forever be her favourite event.
Maritz was in matric when she was selected as part of the national team that competed at the 17th CAA Senior Africa Athletics Championship in Kenya in 2010.
“It was a senior level competition, and I was only 17 years old. Among the best heptathletes in Africa, I was able to smash my personal best in almost every event and finished in sixth place. Looking back at those results and the entire experience, I can with confidence say that it was an experience that changed the course of my future.
“Based on the people I met there and my performance, I was able to secure a sports bursary which allowed me to pursue tertiary education and my career in athletics. Maties Athletics Club of Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape province of South Africa, will always be the club closest to my heart,” Maritz says.
She joined Maties in her first year of university as an insecure athlete and ended up making lifelong friends with her training partners who treated her like family.
It was at Coetzenburg Athletics Stadium in Stellenbosch where she achieved her personal best and national record in heptathlon in 2014 and thus, she will always be thankful to Maties Athletics Club for supporting her throughout her career.
She admits that the 100-metre hurdles were her favourite and best event but she didn’t keep track of the number of times she was called up to the national teams.
“The one thing I know for sure is that the World University Games in Kazan was a big step in my career. I had just recovered from a serious knee injury (torn ACL) the year before and had worked extremely hard to get back to the standard I was before.
“The games allowed me to compete against some of the best athletes in the world and it was just the confidence booster I required to cement myself as a national heptathlete. I will forever cherish the memories and friends I made along the way,” she says.
Maritz did so many other sports as a junior, including netball, tennis, drum majorettes and even a bit of cricket.
She admits to have loved playing netball and she was even elected for the junior national netball teams twice, but unfortunately she had to quit the sport because it carried a large risk of injuries which eventually threatened her athletics career.
She met her husband Tiaan Maritz through athletics many years ago and the couple has a son named Lehan.
As a working mom, her morning starts with seeing to a hungry toddler, followed by a rush to get to work on time, but the parents make an effort to do an early morning jog on weekends, she says.
The former athlete is now a lawyer by profession, specialising in general civil litigation, insurance law and insolvency law, and she admits that time management is currently the biggest challenge she faces in her job.
“I chose to become a lawyer because it is a career that resonated with me as someone who finds solace in rules and laws. The discipline, focus and drive required of a litigation attorney are characteristics instilled in me during my athletics career and childhood.
“I have had to let go of a few things I was passionate about to make time for my family but I have learned to make time for the things that are important to me. I have found a good balance between my work and life as a wife and mother,” she says.
Maritz admits to having enjoyed all the travelling during her glittering athletics career but says she misses competing in the sport that allowed her to see the world and meet people that she would otherwise not have been able to do.
“Although I miss the nerves before big competition, I am living my dream right now because I have been able to remain involved with the sport I love and I do a job that continues to stimulate me.
“I am still involved with athletics and I currently serve on the executive board of Athletics Namibia. Being involved in the management of athletics allows me to give back in some way while also investing in the future of the sport,” she says.
Her life turned out just the way she imagined it would and she says she has worked really hard to be where she is now. Although she still has lots of goals she wants to achieve, she is very much content with how her life has turned out, she says.
She is still in touch with many of her former national teammates, and she says she is not surprised that they have all reached the same successes in their professional lives as they did in their individual sports careers.
Her advice to young athletes is to always strive to become their best selves.
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