Count tennis great Johan Kriek as a Manny Pacquiao supporter. “I like Manny,” says the two-time winner of the Australian Open grand slam tennis tournament. “We need more people like Manny Pacquiao in sport. Music and sport are the only two things that can bring people together all over the world and change things. Politicians do not.”
Born in the very small town of Pongola in South Africa, Kriek, like Pacquiao, was an undersized athlete at 5-ft. 9-in., but achieved world renown with his competitiveness, excellent speed and a powerful first serve. The current resident of Virginia won 14 career singles titles in his career, reached #7 in the world (in 1984), and scored wins over Connors, McEnroe, Gerulaitis and Agassi. Kriek won the Australian Open in 1981 and 1982. John McEnroe still calls Kriek one of the quickest players he ever competed against.
Like so many of us, Kriek is awed by the Pacquiao phenomenon. “Here is a guy who comes from nothing, trains his ass off, is a nice, down-to-earth person from what I see and hear, with a flair for the ‘aw schucks’ local-boy-makes-good, and getting virtually everybody on his side. That is incredible! He is the ultimate personallity in my book, to do it ALL, transcend his sport, boost his country and it’s people, do incredibly big business AND most likely can be President of the Philippines in his first attempt! He is an incredibly talented guy from any angle!”
Like Pacquiao, Kriek is also a civic-minded sportsman himself, having co-founded the Global Water Foundation after attending the Africa Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town in 2005. “I was taken by the sense of urgency expressed by world leaders to find solutions to the water and sanitation problems, not only in Africa but other parts of the developing world,” says Kriek. “A source of healthy water is a fundamental right to everyone on earth, and there is so much the international community can do to help where the need is greatest.”
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