Who is Sydney Maree? (Background)
Born on September 9, 1956 in Cullinan, South Africa, Sydney Maree was raised by his aunts, uncles and grandparents. Political forces kept him away from his parents. The South African government imprisoned his father on Robben Island for his resistance work with the ANC and Pan African Congress, while his mother worked as a housemaid, raising other families children in whites-only Pretoria.
As part of the apartheid government policy to remove black spots of settlement from desirable land, Marees family was forcibly removed to Hammanskrall in the early 1960s. After a few years there, he grew up in Atteridgeville, a black township outside of Pretoria. Maree remembers the traumatic experience of being forced off the land his family had legally owned for generations before the government sold it to Afrikaans farmers.
Growing up, Maree demonstrated a talent for running. While still a schoolboy in 1976, less than six months after the Soweto Riots, he gained national and international attention by running his first sub-four minute mile. With a time of 3:57.9, Marees performance was the second fastest high school mile ever recorded and the first and only sub four-minute mile run by a South African schoolboy, propelling him into the international track and field spotlight. He was named South Africas Black Sportsman of the Year and won a sponsored trip to the United States.
Under the instruction of legendary track and field coach Jumbo Elliot at Villanova University, Maree worked to become a World Record-holder in the 1500-meters, a U.S. citizen, and a two-time Olympian for the United States. But Maree reached prominence at a time when international sport bodies began boycotting South Africa in reaction to the legalized racism practiced under Apartheid. Maree experienced the boycotts firsthand; he was barred from competing internationally for four of his most prime competitive years.
"In South Africa, I was punished for being black, he said. In the United States, I was punished for being South African. It built me and it broke me. But it built me more than it broke me.
Despite these hurdles, Maree received American citizenship in 1984 and went on to become a two-time Olympian for the U.S. (1984 and 1988). Marees victory in the inaugural 5th Avenue Mile in New York (1981), where he missed breaking Sebastian Coe's world mile track record by five hundredths of a second, placed him firmly on the international athletics map and remains unsurpassed. He would go onto hold four U.S. records in the 1500m, 2,000m, 3,000m and 5,000m races, making him one of the top 5 U.S. athletes of all time. Maree retired in 1991 and returned to South Africa in 1995 to participate in the countrys democratic transition.
In 2004 Sydney Maree, was inducted into the South African National Hall of Fame and awarded South Africas highest civil honor for excellent achievement in the field of athletics and contribution to non-racial sport. His life, President Thabo Mbeki said, was inextricably linked with the struggle against oppression and racism in South Africa. That same year, as one of the countries leading Economists, Maree was appointed CEO of the National Empowerment Fund (NEF): a state-owned enterprise within South Africas Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), established to facilitate black economic equality and transformation in the country.
MAREE v. STATE