Humble beginnings for Maties’ barefoot javelin sensation

A barefooted podium finish got Maties Javelin star Jana van Schalkwyk’s career off back in 2013 when she was still in primary school. Discovering her talents and knack for handling the javelin came as a pleasant shock to the former Paarl Gymnasium learner. With much aplomb, following her initiation into the sporting discipline, van Schalkwyk had her sights on donning National colours which she achieved.  

“I first discovered javelin throw in 2013,” van Schalkwyk told Maties Sport. “My friend and I decided at our [annual] inter-house athletics competition we wanted to try javelin throw for the first time.  

“To my amazement, I threw the school record with my second throw after not knowing how to hold the javelin. Seven weeks later I competed at my first national championships, the only girl throwing barefoot on the tartan, and placed second.” 

The final year BCom Management Science student grew up in the coastal town of Melkbosstrand, after matriculating from Paarl Gymnasium she has been part of the Maties Athletics team since her first year in 2020.  

Factors that have helped van Schalkwyk include solid family support, a long-term coach, and a performance psychologist that helps her extract the purest waters that lie beneath. 

“My parents are my biggest support system all throughout my sporting and academic career. They have been by my side through the highs and the lows and have been my biggest motivator.  

“My javelin coach has been with me since 2014 and has been a major factor in my support structure. I have a performance psychologist that helps me manage my academics and sports from a mental aspect as well.” 

With her eyes firmly set on achieving her goals, the future Olympian outlines how she will achieve the ultimate prize of representing South Africa at the pinnacle sports event. While each of the achievements is enjoyed and holds special memories for Jana, – especially the one where she donned the National colours for the first time – it is all, however, a stepping stone in her quest to represent South Africa at the Olympics.  

Van Schalkwyk continues: “I have been privileged enough to medal at various events, but each event plays a massive role in my build-up to my main goal of competing at the Olympic Games. The achievements are just building blocks in my eyes, especially provincial and national medals. The experience I gained in the different competitions has helped me with coping and managing my emotions throughout the USSA championships.” 

“My most memorable moment as an athlete was the first time I put on the green and gold. The feeling of knowing all your hard work has paid off is a proud and calming feeling that can’t necessarily be put into words. The pride of wearing your national colours and competing for your country is amazing.” 

With much aplomb, this same visionary skill is applied ahead of her athletic meets and competitions. 

“If there is a big competition coming up, I will start visualising the competition and my throws as early as two weeks prior to the competition. I have been doing this since I was a young girl competing and have found it to be very helpful.” 

Jana’s story is an inspiring one and if history is anything to go by it could lead her right to the top of the javelin world. She has no shortage of motivation and role models but believes more can be done to help keep the focus on women in sports and showcase the talents South Africa has across all sporting codes. 

“I believe marketing is a big factor in getting more people focussed on females in sport. Women in South Africa fair very good globally in sports, for example, the Proteas Women’s Cricket team [finished] second in the World Cup earlier this year. Since then, the sporting community in South Africa is focused on Women’s Cricket and the development of it. It is crucial to give more opportunities to athletes to showcase their talents.  

“This will attract more people to competitions where they can watch these athletes push their bodies to the limit. The marketing of these meetings will need to incorporate some of the best athletes in South Africa with a focus on the big group of up-and-coming female athletes and to give them a [healthy] platform.” 

The amount of support that van Schalkwyk and her siblings have received from their parents has allowed them to muster through and overcome some of the most challenging moments – both academically and on the sports field – as she sighted this as their main source of motivation and drive. 

“I have many people who inspire me, but if I must choose, it will [have] to be my parents. The extreme amount of sacrifice they have made to get my siblings and me where we are today and how they carry themselves throughout life is really inspiring for me. They are constantly striving to improve themselves as well as help others along the way to reach their full potential. I really look up to them.”