Sinethemba Blom fights his way out of poverty to be a medal contender
The son of an Eastern Cape farm worker has been boxing since he was six
Psychology student Sinethemba Blom out-thought and then outsmarted his taller opponent to win his 64kg boxing bout and advance to the last eight in the Commonwealth Games on Sunday.
Blom‚ a final-year BA student at the University of the Western Cape‚ needed the first round of the bout to work out Guyana’s lanky Colin Lewis‚ who is nicknamed Superman.
Blom at first struggled to avoid the jab and often made the mistake of leaning back to get out of range‚ but after the first round he returned and bobbed his way in under Lewis’s jab.
That tactic proved to be kryptonite for his foe‚ who was badly exposed on the inside. It was no surprise that four of the five judges scored the South African the victor.
Blom’s biggest concern‚ however‚ was a gash above his left eyebrow‚ although coach Mladeli Mngqhibisa was confident it would not be a factor in his quarterfinal against Jessie Lartey of Ghana on Tuesday.
Lartey is at his third Games‚ having made the last 16 of the 56kg division at Delhi 2010 and the quarterfinals of the 60kg class at Glasgow 2014.
Blom‚ who will be guaranteed a medal if he can beat Lartey‚ has been boxing since he was six‚ sparring at school where kids would make a ring using desks.
The 25-year-old was two when his father‚ a farm worker who owned livestock in the Eastern Cape‚ was found murdered not long after an argument with a white farmer who had threatened to kill him following an altercation.
Blom was raised by sisters and a late brother in a small RDP house in Dunoon‚ a township near Milnerton.
"We were more than 10. One has his own corner with a blanket‚ the other one his own corner. We have two beds for parents and stuff‚ so it was quite hard," he said.
"But look where I am now‚" he said‚ adding he had to find the time to do his school work between household chores at night. "I passed with flying colours‚ so I need to brag about this," Blom said.
Apart from boxing and studying‚ Blom also works part-time at a call centre.
"When you have a lot of dependents‚ you have to provide. You can’t sit there and say ‘no‚ they are older than me‚ why are they not working?’
"I grew up quickly. When I was 20 I was already providing for my family. It’s an honour to be a breadwinner."
Only three South African boxers have won medals at the past three Games‚ and all went on to turn professional.
But Blom has no intention of joining the paid ranks. "I just want to be in the Olympic team, then after that I’ll quit boxing."
He wants to focus on his studies and would like to go into sports psychology when he is done, possibly working with boxers.