When Chris Norton came to Stellenbosch University (SU) in 1991 from Grahamstown he had no idea what he was going to study, all he knew was that he is coming to play rugby. He was one of the first English students at SU and joined the Maties Rugby Club where he played for more than 10 years with some spectacular tours to Argentina, Japan and Britain and obtained his honours degree in history to boot.
“I was lucky enough to come into contact with incredible people like Doc Craven, Ian Kirkpatrick, Jan Boland Coetzee, Prof Nick Terreblanche, Dawie Snyman and many more,” he says. He recalls how Doc Craven was at his U/19 rugby dinner and dance. A friend left the dinner with two six-packs (one under each arm hidden in his blazer) as a good student does. As he was walking out of the door, he stumbled and dropped one six-pack, which shattered at Doc Craven’s feet. Doc turned to him and said “Engelsman is dit al wat jy vat?” (Englishman, is that all you’re taking?).
Today, Chris is well-known in Stellenbosch and especially in cycling circles as the owner of the BMT shop with a deep-rooted connection to the surrounding communities. While competing in Ironman from 2002 to 2011, he decided that Stellenbosch needed a triathlon shop and in 2008 the BMT (Bike Marathon Triathlon) shop was born. Chris says he has a close-knit team who are like a family and their goals are “to be the best bike shop in Stellenbosch and to offer customers a wide variety of choices”.
The growth has been tremendous and the shop now mainly focuses on mountain biking. BMT has strong relationships with various community development organisations and supports Qhubeka and Vision Afrika school in Kayamandi. Another community project they do is AITSA, which is based in Kylemore where they train 8-12 year olds in cycling. They have plans to expand this programme to more schools in the greater Stellenbosch area.
Before 2008, Chris worked for Medscheme for 15 years as sales manager of Fedhealth Medical Scheme. He says this position brought him in contact with many different people in South Africa. Chris values honesty, integrity and community spirit and dreams that there will be a return to “the Madiba magic where people got along with one another and worked hard to make South Africa a better place”.
He lost both parents at a young age and says that it is important to have people close to you that you can rely on when times are tough. He has learned that “the world has become an extremely competitive place and if you don’t constantly change and adapt your business model you will become obsolete”.
- By Elbie Els -