Runner Forfeits Medal To Carry Little Girl with No Shoes Across Thorny Ground


A 9-year-old girl from South Africa has shown her community — and now, the globe — that strength of character is worth far more than a few fleeting moments of victory on a podium.

Kaila Germishuizen is one of the newest members of her school’s cross country team. She traveled with the team to her first meet, wearing a new pair of shoes her parents had bought her just for the occasion.

Kalia was nervous, but cross country coach Thinus van der Heever offered a few encouraging words to the young athlete — namely, that having fun was the most important aspect of the day.

“I told her that we do this not just to win, but mostly to have fun,” van der Heever said. “And when we do this to have fun we will enjoy it, and if we enjoy it, we will automatically have fun.”

As the 2-kilometer race was coming to a close, van der Heever became concerned when he did not see young Kalia cross the finish line.

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He headed down the path to investigate, hoping Kalia was OK. When van der Heever finally spotted the young athlete, he was overcome with emotion.

“What I saw brought tears to my eyes,” van der Heever said.

Kalia had been running when she approached a particularly thorny patch of the track. She stopped when she saw a competitor from another school who was trying to run through the thorns barefoot.

Do you think this little girl should have been allowed to continue the race?

So Kalia stopped racing, heaved the runner, a girl named Sephokwane, into her arms, and carried her across the thorns.

“Here is this nine-year-old little girl busy carrying another little girl from a different school,” van der Heever said. “The track had some sections that was covered with thorns and this other little girl was not wearing any running shoes.”

What happened next was particularly heartbreaking — a race official told Kaila that she was not allowed to help another racer.

“When I approached the two girls, I noticed Kaila was crying because she was upset that she wasn’t allowed to help Sephokwane,” van der Heever said.

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So van der Heever intervened and gave Kalia a choice. He explained she could finish the race, or stop competing to help her friend.

Kalia chose the latter and bounded back down the raceway to carry Sephokwane as far as she needed to go.

“Is this not a lesson we can learn today?” van der Heever said. “It does not matter who you are, where you come from, which school you attend … there was somebody in need, and Kaila was willing to give up on her dream of finishing the race and help this new friend.”

Van der Heever reported that Kalia would be honored for her good sportsmanship in front of the school. As news of the girls’ story spread, people have offered to donate running shoes or money to purchase shoes for the little barefoot racer.

“We did get shoes sponsored for little Sephokwane,” van der Heever said. The school is preparing to launch the “Kaila Germishuys Kamaradie Campaign,” which will help extend kindness to other kids in need.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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