Author: Sharan Singh
College sports in the United States is extremely popular and in many cases competes with professional sports for prime time broadcasting and print coverage. The average USA university funds over twenty different sports, and with over 4000 institutions, there are approximately 500,000 student-athletes that compete in college sports each year!
South Africa has a proud history of producing world-class athletes, and many of them have used the USA college route to catapult themselves onto the global arena. Below we have put together our Top 5 picks of SA's Homegrown Athletes who studied in the USA.
Top 5 Homegrown Athletes:
5. Robyn Moodaly
South African Women’s Football Team regular Robyn Moodaly was born in East London. She grew up playing football, describing it as, "being in my genes". Robin grew up playing in the boy's teams as there were no girls teams nearby but eventually moved to Johannesburg in order to continue playing at the top level. While attending high school at the Tuks's High-Performance Centre, Moodaly came to the attention of the South African football selectors who drafted her into the national Under–17 squad. In 2013, Moodaly left SA to join AIB College of Business in Des Moines, Iowa, where she trained with the college soccer team but was unable to play due to eligibility restrictions. She was, however, able to get some game time with the Colorado Rush women's team where she played in two fixtures. Robyn is currently studying and competing at the University of Northwestern Ohio
4. Roxanne Barker
Roxanne is the South African Women’s National Soccer Team Goalkeeper. She was born in Pietermaritzburg and started her soccer career at Durban Ladies FC. Her talent didn't go unnoticed, and she was recruited by the women's soccer coach at Pepperdine University in California. During her college career, she achieved a Four-Time NCAA Division 1 WCC selection and was named to the LA Soccer News Women’s College Player of the Week Team. After completing her studies, Barker was selected by Portland Thorns FC in the 2013 NWSL College Draft. To date, Roxanne has represented South Africa 28 times and currently plays professionally for SC Heerenveen Vrouwen in the Netherlands.
3. Dominique Scott- Efurd
Dominique is the South African 3,000m national record holder and five-time NCAA 5,000m and 10,000m champion. She matriculated from Rhenish Girls High School in Stellenbosch and left to study and run track at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2011. While attending Arkansas, her abilities soared, winning the NCAA Championship five times and she showed her incredible talent by switching to Cross Country and winning the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships. Most recently she broke her own SA record for the 3000m in New York when she came third in a time of 8 minutes 41.18 seconds. After the race, Scott said: “Hard Work Makes The Dream Work – Even though I missed the win by 0.08 seconds it was a very special evening to see the hard work pay off! Never let the words of others stop you from believing in yourself!”
2. Kevin Anderson
Kevin is currently the darling of SA Men's tennis, having recently reached the Wimbledon men's final in 2018! He was born in Johannesburg South Africa and attended St. Stithians High School. After completing his matric, he was offered a scholarship to play tennis at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, where he was named All-American every year he was on campus! Kevin is currently ranked as the world No. 5 in men's singles.
1. Ryk Neethling
Ryk is a Bloemfontein native and possibly South Africa’s most famous athlete to have studied and competed in the USA. Ryk attended high school at Grey College, where he excelled in swimming and earned a place in the South African national swimming team in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Immediately following the 96 Games, Ryk transferred to The University of Arizona where he further cemented his swimming reputation, by earning numerous awards and accolades. He was the nine-time NCAA National Champion, the Arizona Athlete of the Year and the PAC-10 Athlete of the Year for four consecutive years, and he was also named the University of Arizona Athlete of the Century!
Ryk currently holds the South African record in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events. Ryk also held the world record in the 4×100m freestyle relay and 100m individual medley.
There you have it, that is our pick of the Top 5 South African Athlete's who have used their abilities not only to win themselves scholarships to some of the worlds best universities but to catapult themselves onto the international sports stage and make our nation proud! Whilst taking up these exciting opportunities, these athletes have no doubt benefited from these experiences in other ways such as having the opportunity to explore new cultures, make new friends, discover new career prospects and gain vital life experiences.
These athletes are all proof of the success that can be achieved by exploring different paths, and we challenge you to be the next homegrown hero for South Africa!