After some frustrating experiences, 2019 is turning out to be a defining year for University of Johannesburg basketball player Lance Chikore, both on and off the court. Not only was the structural engineering master's student part of the winning UJ team at this year's University Sport South Africa week, he has also been asked to deliver a paper at an international seminar in Cape Town next month. On the court, Chikore's attention has been firmly focused on achieving success with his basketball colleagues. "I started playing for the UJ first team in 2015 when I was in my first year," recalled the 24-year-old, who grew up in Zimbabwe but now lives in Auckland Park in Johannesburg. "It has been a heart-breaking journey for me as I went through four consecutive losses in the USSA semifinals. It was painful and like a curse on the Orange Army. "This year, however, all that pain was swept away after a clean sweep during the tournament [and] being crowned the national champions. "Right now I am so happy. It is a dream come true and the feeling is just great." Chikore, though, is also showing his skill in the academic field. Last year he completed his honours in civil engineering and is now in the first year of a master's structural engineering course at UJ. This has led to an invitation to present a paper at the seventh International Conference on Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Computation at UCT from September 2 to 4. "The main aim for my project is to introduce the use of a special type of glue called Epoxy in large-scale construction of buildings which are made of steel," said Chikore. "This is to be done so that in the near future the construction industry will replace the common jointing materials like welding, bolting and riveting with this glue. "This is also of importance because of several engineering advantages of this glue over welding, bolting and riveting." He added that it would create a foundation to be used in South Africa, establishing a set of rules to be followed (design code) when designing buildings or any other metal structures. Design rules are standard rules agreed upon by specialists in a specific area of engineering which should always be followed when designing structures. "I am honoured and very excited about this as it as an opportunity to showcase my capabilities to the world," said Chikore. "It really means a lot to my career as I am working towards being one of the best structural engineers in the country and continent at large, especially in the designing of metal structures." The UJ star, then, seems to have perfect harmony between his academic and sporting commitments, but he said it was not achieved without some sacrifices. "It is not easy to be a student-athlete but because of my love of the game I had to make sure I created enough time for basketball," he added. "For example, as an athlete, team practice is not sufficient, so you need to create extra time to work on your individual skills and to develop your game. "Personally, for me to keep on track I had to cut down on some other activities like going out on a regular basis and to minimise the number of hours of sleep to an average of five or six, depending on my workload and to make sure the brain stayed healthy. "I feel that basketball is life-related. It helps you to see how you can make certain decisions in certain situations and how to react when you have emotional overload. "Sport, I believe, has added good balance to my life." His message to young students following in his footsteps was to forge their own path in the world. "Never let anyone tell that ‘you cannot do it' or that ‘certain people have tried it and failed'. "Just keep on pushing until you achieve your goal. The process is always hard but the fruits taste so nice that you will forget the struggle you went through to get what you wanted. "Above all, hard work is key. People may argue that hard work does not guarantee success but I have never met a successful person who never invested in hard work in their area of expertise." Caption: Lance Chikore was part of the University of Johannesburg team which won the title in the University Sport South Africa basketball tournament earlier this year. Photo: Reg Caldecott