Team SA can hold their heads high
SA future looks bright for Rio in 2016
Caster Semenya sent South Africa into a frenzy last night, winning a silver medal in the 800m.
The heroine came second in a time of 1.57.23 after Mariya Savinova of Russia, who clocked in at 1.56.19.
Third was another Russian, Ekaterina Poistogova, in 1.57.53.
Speaking of South Africa’s performance at the Games, earlier in the day, Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula called for a private-public funding partnership to help improve South Africa’s chances of winning more medals at the Rio (Brazil) 2016 Olympic Games.
Mbalula said South Africa had performed beyond expectations at the London Games after winning five medals – three gold, a silver and a bronze – before last evening’s women’s 800m final.
He said there was a need to accelerate schools’ sports programmes.
South African sport has always been on a learning curve but what came out of Team SA’s campaign at the London Olympics begs for continuity now, to grow on the inspiration provided by the athletes that took part this year.
Beyond the missed target of 12 medals, the future of the pool looks bright after Chad le Clos (20) and Cameron van der Burgh (24) brought the team back to the medals. Rowing also took its place as a code with potential, and Anaso Jobodwana (21) emerged as the newest sensation in sprinting.
Le Clos also won silver in the 100m butterfly and canoeist Bridgitte Hartley (29) took bronze in the (K1) 500m midweek.
These were the positives from London 2012. Before Caster Semenya’s 800m final race last night, and the men’s marathon today, the haul was close to the 2004 Athens (Greece) Olympic Games’ total of six medals – the only time South Africa had won so many medals at a single Olympics since readmission.
South Africa also proved, in front of the world’s biggest audience, that the gap between disabled and able-bodied athletes is closing after handing Oscar Pistorius his debut to become the first double-amputee to run on the Olympics platform.
Jobodwana excelled as the nation’s lone sprinter – his remarkable pace took him to match-ups against Jamaican great Usain Bolt in the 200m semifinals and the final.
The 20-year-old came second to Bolt in a personal best time of 20.46 and two other youngsters, Andre Olivier (22) and Lehann Fourie (25) reached the 800m and 110m hurdles finals, respectively.
Apart from Sizwe Ndlovu who is 31, the rowing team’s age is 22 and 25. South Africa can learn the real meaning of development from nations such as China who had a 16-year-old swimmer, Ye Shiwen, who won double gold and set a world record.
With the 12×12 medal target beyond reach, Sascoc president Gideon Sam said: “We were very ambitious with what we wanted to achieve. The dice could have been nicer to us but it did not fall in favour of Khotso Mokoena (long jump), Sunette Viljoen (javelin), LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles) and Sifiso Nhlapo (BMX) but that is the nature of the Olympics.”
Mokoena looked in shape during the qualifying round with an 8 metre mark and Viljoen finished just outside the medal bracket – the most notable near-miss.
With his tenure as president about to run out, Sam said he could not tick off all the boxes in his plans when he was in charge but if he was seconded, he would stand for presidency at the elective meeting in November.
“If people ask me to stand I will make myself available. I believe there is a task to complete the process, but let’s leave it to the people as we are not even guaranteed that half of the board will come back (after the polls).”
Sam added: “From London, we can go back with our heads held high. Whatever happens to me at the elective conference is immaterial but as a leader one needs to see where the process you had started goes, and lay out for whoever takes over – I will lay out my plans at the council meeting next Sunday (August 19).”
Sam said he will spell out the next four-year Olympic cycle “plus another four to 2020”.
Some of the downsides of the London Games for Team SA was the sorry sight of all the team sports that represented the nation in the women’s football and hockey (men and women).
Meanwhile, the men’s marathon trio of Stephen Mokoka, Lusapho April and Coolboy Ngamole and mountain biker Burry Stander are to join South Africa’s final attempt at medals today.
The marathon runs from 12pm and mountain bike cross-country starts at 2.30pm – both SA times.
Marc Mundell came 32nd – out of 51 that finished – in the men’s 50km race walk with an area record of 3:5.32 yesterday.
Team South Africa will land at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday morning.
– Additional reporting by Timothy Molobi