The last Cape Epic lioness, Hannele Steyn, will forever be honoured with the introduction of the Hannele Steyn African women’s trophy, it was announced by organisers of the event today.
Similar to the African men’s jersey, the trophy will be awarded to the first African women’s team to complete the eight-day event from next year.
Steyn, Craig Beech, John Gale and Mike Nixon are the only persons to have completed all 14 Epics – a total of 10 854km and 219 000m of ascent.
The women’s champion in 2005 alongside fellow South African Zoe Frost, Steyn said the announcement of the trophy was one of the few things that had left her speechless.
“Organiser Kevin Vermaak has the ability to take things away from me and to add things to my life. He’s taken away my breath and my words, and not many people can keep me quiet,” she said at a press conference during which the 2018 route was unveiled.
“I’m super proud, I’m humbled, grateful and joyous. There’s nothing to describe the feeling when the Epic calls you and tells you about this. I really feel truly blessed.”
The trophy was designed by Pretoria artist Kgaogelo Mashilo, who explained it was the Adinkra symbol of the Wawa Aba (the seed from wawa tree from West Africa).
“It was already beautiful, I didn’t care what it looked like,” said Steyn. “But when I found out it was an aloe leaf that is given to strong women that fight with the men in the battles, it started to become the most beautiful thing to me.”
Rozalia Kubwana became the first black African woman to finish the Epic in 2013 and Steyn said she believed the trophy would go a long way to inspire more African women to enter the race.
“To offer that prize for African women is a big deal. If I look at our racing, everything is built around our result at Epic and the African jersey adds a lot,” he said.
“To have that opportunity for the women is great because they’ll get that extra exposure and hopefully that will motivate more sponsors to get involved and a lot more women to get involved.”
Married to Olympic swimmer Karin (formerly Prinsloo), Buys said he had seen firsthand how hard women worked in their respective disciplines.
“They don’t work less than we do and it’s great that an opportunity like this is now there.
“I think we’ll see more African women partnerships in the Epic with that prize up for grabs now.”