Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 12:50 pm

Coaching one of the world’s best athletes keeps Tannie Ans ever-young – but she says there are key lifestyle factors that allow her to keep working well past the age of 65…

With her 79th birth­day approaching, Anna Sofia Botha, affectionately known as Tannie Ans, is still the trusted coach of world 400m record holder, Wayde van Niek­erk. She has no intention of slowing down and the pair are planning their next Olympic Games together.

What is her secret, particularly in a COVID-19 world?

“First, you have to swal­low your vi­ta­mins and im­mune sys­tem boost­ers ev­ery morn­ing. That’s one part of fighting this virus, but on the other hand, Wayde is so at­ten­tive and strict about look­ing af­ter me. It also has a lot to do with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Wayde and I. It’s very pre­cious, and he is al­ways wor­ried about mak­ing sure I am not go­ing out and ex­pos­ing my­self [to the coronavirus].”

Fitness is another by-product of Tannie Ans’ work. “At my age, if you’re an ac­tive coach, you re­ally move a lot on the track and you get your train­ing ses­sion there. Also, if you want, you can go to the gym to do a bit of work there as well,” she says.

Along with a strict, healthy diet, it is the emotional connections that might just give Tannie Ans a little more vuma than others for her age. “I love help­ing young chil­dren achieve their dreams and, by do­ing that, I help my­self as I have the priv­i­lege of be­ing with chil­dren. In a way, it’s a way of keep­ing my thoughts positive.”

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There is considerable research showing that regular engagement in meaningful social interactions has a protective effect on cognitive health in older age, says Head of Wellness at Vitality, Dr Mosima Mabunda.

“There is strong evidence that the more you stimulate and challenge your brain – and the earlier you start and longer you do it – the greater the protection against cognitive ageing,” says Dr Mabunda.

Tannie Ans, is still the trusted coach of world 400m record holder, Wayde van Niek¬erk.

Screening and self-care is important

As a fan of the Vitality 65+ programme, which encourages health eating, fitness, social interaction and tailored screening for those over the age of 65, Tannie shares that these tenets are part of her own approach to life.

She adds that with travel being an essential part of her work too, she has to be careful about COVID-19 infection. “It’s re­ally a stress­ful and weird sit­u­a­tion to be in, but I re­alised that it all de­pends on my­self – how I re­act and how I look af­ter my­self. This was not only for my­self, but also to be on the safe side for my ath­letes, es­pe­cially for Wayde.”

She says vulnerable people should still be careful, and practise social distancing and maintain safety protocols. “It is still your own re­spon­si­bil­ity to stay safe and ad­here to the rules and reg­u­la­tions,” she says.

Dr Mabunda agrees, noting that maintaining essential self-care, medical care and routine screening is key, particularly for South Africans over the age of 65.

Wayde adds that he appreciates that Tannie Ans takes care of herself, so she can care for her athletes:  “She’s an amazing woman, she has played a huge role in what I am today. She doesn’t see me as an athlete but rather as family. I respect her as a coach and mentor, I’m grateful I could trust in her work and I think it speaks for itself.”


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.