Ronald Brown is ready to tackle his goals after returning from the Olympic games. Picture: Ashley Vlotman
Ronald Brown is ready to tackle his goals after returning from the Olympic games. Picture: Ashley Vlotman

From cancer survivor to Olympic hero

By Keshia Africa Time of article published Aug 10, 2021

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The Springbok Sevens player was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Stellenbosch rugby player Ronald Brown is a survivor who knows all about drawing on inner strength in tough times.

He has returned from the Tokyo Olympics an important sporting milestone in his career.

But two years ago he was preparing for a different battle.

The Springbok Sevens player was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2019 and said the experience was overwhelming.

“There was no family history of cancer.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but we started chemotherapy almost immediately.”

Brown’s journey with cancer lasted for eight months and for him the saddest part was being unable to play rugby while undergoing treatment.

“It’s so easy to be despondent with this diagnosis because we know many people die from cancer.

“It was challenging because rugby is my first love.

“Not being able to play drained me emotionally.”

The 25-year-old star said he wouldn’t have made it through his illness without his support system.

“My family at home kept speaking positivity in my life that kept me motivated.

“They knew that reminding me of my love for the sport would help.

“The players and management are also family to me because I spend most of my time with them, and they kept me motivated too.”

Brown, who grew up in Montagu, received a scholarship to play rugby and study at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in his matric year.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

After playing rugby for UJ, his career started taking shape while playing for the Lions in 2014. He moved to Stellenbosch in 2018 and joined the Sevens team later that year.

Brown said getting to play in the Olympics was top on his list of career highlights.

“I feel amazing. I’ve always played rugby and achieved other things, but nothing gave me as much of a high as playing at the Olympics did.”

Brown said getting to experience Japanese culture and food was amazing, and a great change of scenery.

“Being in the village was very insightful.

“I enjoyed being around top athletes, seeing how they operate and how they navigate their goals.

“Not having any crowds in the stands gave me mixed emotions.

“It was nice to be able to hear each other while playing, but we missed the encouragement that comes from the crowd.”

Brown aspires to continue growing as a player and said the Olympics left him more hype for his career.

“I’d like to play in the Sevens world cup next year.

“I also want to focus on being a reliable team player,” he said.

Brown’s advice to aspiring rugby players is to continue to have faith in their abilities.

“My experience in overcoming cancer taught me to always work towards something.

“I always tell myself to expect that something good will happen in my life.”

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