World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk has donated R500‚000 towards the upgrade of the Groote Schuur Hospital’s neonatal unit.

Born at 29 weeks and weighing just over 1kg, Wayde van Niekerk’s parents never thought he would survive, let alone become a successful athlete.

After his mother, Odessa Swarts, gave birth to him at Tygerberg 23 years ago, the South African track and field champion and 400m sprinter would later be treated at Groote Schuur Hospital’s neonatal unit, where he spent several weeks in an incubator.

“From what my mother tells me it was apparently a very difficult and emotional journey to have a premature baby. There were days where she was not sure whether I was going to make it the next day. That’s how sick I was,” he said.

On Thursday, Van Niekerk, currently the fourth fastest person in history and the first athlete to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, and the 200m in under 20 seconds, donated half-a-million rand to the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust to aid the upgrade of that hospital’s neonatal unit.

Through the Trust, the hospital is fundraising money to expand the unit, which is currently battling to cope due the incidence of pre-term birth in the province.

The unit, which was built in the 1970s, is overcrowded and unable to meet the demand of caring for more than 3 000 babies a year – mostly premature babies.

Wayne Van Niekerk

During the handover of the cheque at the Century City Convention Centre on Thursday, where he was also named the face of an ICT company, T-systems, Van Niekerk said through the donation he hoped to make his mother proud.

“My mother is very passionate about premature babies since she cared for one herself. Through this donation I’m showing my support to her causes, and to make her proud. I’m my mother’s seed and I want to help her in every manner I can. But more importantly, I’m hoping to help thousands of premature babies who go through Groote Schuur Hospital’s neonatal unit.

“As a small premature baby, I was given a fighting chance to survive, and so it’s very important to me to help give other preemies the best chance at life.”

Dr Lloyd Tooke, senior neonatologist at Groote Schuur Hospital, said Van Niekerk’s success as an athlete had shown that premature babies could also achieve against the odds. “He is truly an inspiration not only for families of premature infants but for all of us.”

Having raised more than R5 million so far, the hospital’s chief executive Bhavna Patel said the latest amount would be used to buy modern equipment for the upgraded unit.

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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.


  1. What a great guy- to donate so much to the NICU! My daughter Joy was born at 23 weeks in 2012. Due to modern medicine and prayers she is doing great today. I hemorrhaged at 17 weeks for the first of 4 times because of 100% placenta previa, which turned into placenta accreta (which I believe was caused by 3 prior c-sections). After she came home from 121 days in the NICU, I wrote a memoir called “From Hope To Joy” about my life-threatening
 pregnancy and my daughter’s 4 months in the NICU (with my 3 young sons at 
home), which is now available on both the Amazon and Barnes&Noble websites. It was quite a roller 
coaster that I am certain some of you have been on or are currently riding on. My mission is to provide hope to women struggling with
 high-risk pregnancies, encourage expectant mothers to educate themselves before 
electing cesarean deliveries, provide families of premature babies a realistic 
look at what lies ahead in their NICU journey, and show that miracles can 
happen, and hope can turn into joy.
 Please see my website and

  2. HI There

    What a wonderful story, I would love to subscribe to you news if it is all good news!


  3. Thank you Wayde. Your selfless act will be remembered long after your record is broken. You are the south African we should all aspire to be.

  4. Thank you Wayde. Your selfless generosity will be remembered long after your record has been broken.
    You are the South African we should all aspire to be.

  5. So proud of your achievements, your attitude and your generosity. You are an outstanding role model for our youth who seem to have lost the way.

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