It is with tremendous sadness that we bid farewell to Legend of the Pedal Jan Hettema, whom was tragically killed on Wednesday morning 29 June after being fatally wounded in an armed robbery at his home.
Jan’s wife Elsa mercifully survived the ordeal. The 82-year-old double Springbok (cycling and motorsport) is survived by his wife Elsa, a son Shaun and daughter Helena and his ex-wife Joan Hettema.
Hettema’s cycling career began in 1950, when he took part in his first race and finished in last place. He returned to finish in second place behind Adrian Kuhn in the Union Day 84-mile cycle race in 1953 and in 1955, he finished fourth in the Individual 4000m Pursuit and third in the 1000m Time Trial at the SA Championships at Alexandra Park, Pietermaritzburg.
In 1955 he left for Europe where he won several races and in 1956, he was selected for the Olympic Team and finished fourth in the 4000m Team Pursuit. He also broke the Olympic record for the 4000m.
He won many provincial races in South Africa after that, including the iconic 25-mile track race at Paarl on Boxing Day (Minnaar Trophy), which he won in 1957.
He also competed in the 1958 Empire Games at Cardiff, Wales, where he finished seventh in the 1000m T.T.
In 1959, he retired from cycling after declared “professional” after being paid a R10 prize. He was therefore no longer eligible for Springbok selection.
From 1959, he was awarded Springbok colours for Motorsport where he became five times SA Rally Drivers Champion (1963, 1967-69, 1976) amongst numerous other accolades.
Among his most memorable moments in his career, Hettema included the time he was hosted by Princess Grace of Monaco in 1964. He was also selected as one of 20 legends for the programme “Where are they now” (Southern life with Darren Scott). Hettemer had made reference to one of the scariest moments in his life being when he fell 37 metres in his rally car, and survived.
On behalf of Cycling SA, we express our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of Jan Hettema, on the senseless and unnecessary passing of one of South Africa’s sporting greats.
*Content credit to Johnny Koen