Going the distance with Justine Palframan-Donkin

The sport bug bit Renaissance woman Justine Palframan-Donkin early on in life.

“I grew up in a sporty household. My mom and dad met on the athletics track and were
in the same training group,” says Palframan-Donkin. According to her, this early start in the sporting world has meant that has “always been passionate about sport”.

Growing up she competed in swimming, hockey and tennis but it was on the athletics field that she found her niche. “Athletics is where I felt the most at home and comfortable. It’s where I could live out my talent,” she says.

Balancing brilliance

What makes Palframan a  “uniquely brilliant athlete” is that she has competed at the highest level while also being a full time student, according to Maurice Fisher, athletics head coach at Maties Sport.

Balance is the key to Palframan’s success, according to Fisher. He explains that she has managed to find the middle ground between having a healthy personal life and competing fiercely in the sport she loves.

However, finding that balance can be “challenging” when competing at a high level, says Palframan-Donkin.

“You need to learn to prioritise what is important, meaning you may sacrifice on other aspects,” according to her.

“A meticulous level of discipline” and the willingness to make sacrifices when needed has helped Palframan-Donkin achieve her goals, says Fisher.

“It teaches you to manage your time efficiently; how to focus on your goals and to work hard to achieve what is important to you,” explains Palframan-Donkin.

Palframan-Donkin chose to complete her undergraduate degree at Stellenbosch University in four years to allow her more time to focus on the World Student Games in 2015 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

Choosing to extend her post graduate to two years instead of one also allowed her to find success in both her athletics and academic careers. “There are choices one must make to succeed. At the end of the day I wouldn’t be the woman I am now without all the experiences I went through,” says Palframan-Donkin.

A woman of many talents

While completing her masters she also started a job as the athletics manager at Stellenbosch High School. “It has been an incredible journey working with the upcoming athletes and accompanying them through their high school career […] I have had such great mentors in the sports office and in the school and I have grown in so many aspects,” says Palframan-Donkin.

Palframan-Donkin has also had to battle with overcoming injuries in her career, according to Fisher. As an athlete it is important to trust the individuals in your team to give you the guidance you need to recover from the injury, says Palframan-Donkin.

Having patience and trusting in the process is key to overcoming bouncing back successfully after injury, says Palframan-Donkin. It is also key to remember that “there is a reason for everything and life is more than just one’s sport”, says Palframan-Donkin.

Looking to the future

For the last ten years Palframan-Donkin has been a legendary fixture at Maties Sport. “Stellenbosch University was my first and only choice. One I will never regret making,” says Palframan-Donkin.

“I have a few more commitments before my master’s journey is over, but for the first time in a long time I have time to slow down, breathe and decide what’s next for me,” says  Palframan-Donkin.

In 2023 she will continue her training at Maties. “It has been an incredible journey, I have had the opportunity to have an amazing and professional support system working with me along my academic and athletic journey,” says Palframan-Donkin.

“If my body allows it, I would like to run at the 2023 World Athletics Championships,” says Palframan-Donkin. She will be aiming to qualify and compete in the 400m final at the Championships, according to Fisher.

Palframan-Donkin’s advice to other young athletes – “Life is full of so many magical moments, one must just take the time to slow down and enjoy them. It is challenging balancing both sport and academics, however, it is possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, make sure to prioritise what is important, and always make time for those who are important to you.”


By Kara Olivier