Team SA set for Olympic assault
8 August 2008
Team South Africa, made up of 131 athletes representing 19 codes, will fly the Rainbow Nation's flag at the Beijing Olympic Games from 8 to 25 August. The largest representation is shared by athletics and aquatics, both of which have 25 athletes.
There are high hopes that the swimmers will deliver some medal winning performances and the men's 4 by 100 metre freestyle relay team will be going all out to defend the title they won four years ago in Athens in a world record time.
Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman, and Lyndon Ferns, who all swam in Athens, will definitely be part of the relay line-up, while a swim off will take place to determine the remaining team member; Gideon Louw is favoured to take the place of Darian Townsend, who completed the quartet four years ago.
A number of other swimmers are expected to have a shot at winning medals, including breaststrokers Cameron van der Burgh, William Diering and Suzaan van Biljon; backstrokers Gerhard Zandberg and George du Rand; middle distance freestyler Wendy Trott; the freestyle sprint stars Roland Schoeman and Gideon Louw; Lyndon Ferns in the butterfly; and Ryk Neethling and Ferns in the 100m freestyle.
Apart from the 100 metres freestyle relay, the men's 4 by 100 medley relay team could surprise, while the 4 by 200 metres freestyle relay squad bears watching.
No doubt, the world's media will pay plenty of attention to one member of the SA swimming team, namely Natalie du Toit. She will become the first amputee in history to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympic Games when she contests the women's 10 kilometre marathon swim.
Previously, at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 in Manchester, Du Toit captured the hearts of the spectators when she qualified for the final of the 800 metres freestyle able-bodied event. The stage this time around is much bigger, her achievement even greater, and her inspirational life story will become even more widely known than it is.
Encouragingly, there are nine women in the aquatics squad. In Athens, the only women was diver Jenna Dreyer.
Sadly, a decision to allow South African swimmers to use any swimsuit they wish appears to have come too late for those wishing to acquire the Speedo LZR, in which almost 50 world records have been set in 2008. Top swimmers Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman believe it is worth about 0.4 seconds over 50 metres freestyle which, at the Olympic level, could make a substantial difference to the results.
The standout members of the athletics squad include 800 metres star Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, long jumper Khotso Mokoena, javelin throwers Justine Robbeson and Robert Oosthuizen, 400 metres hurdler LJ van Zyl, and marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala.
Mulaudzi won silver in Athens and he would love to improve that result by one place. With a best this year of 1:43.26 in Monaco at the end of July, Mulaudzi has the form to challenge for gold.
Mokoena was earlier this year crowned World Indoor champion, but it will take something special to win in Beijing; nine men have bettered his best jump of the year of 8.25 metres.
Justine Robbeson has the seventh best distance among female javelin throwers in 2008 with a distance of 63.49 metres achieved in Potchefstroom in May.
Success in Beijing
Robert Oosthuizen surprised at the IAAF Track and Field World Championships in Osaka in 2007 when, at the age of 20, he finished sixth in the javelin. Previously he won the World Junior Championships title in 2006…in Beijing.
LJ van Zyl has been somewhat up-and-down in his performances this year, but only two men have run faster than the 48.22 he clocked in Athens in July. It suggests that his form is strong heading into the Olympics.
The marathon is probably the most unpredictable event at the Olympics; in 1996, when Josiah Thugwane won gold in Atlanta, there were many South Africans who had never heard of him. Hendrick Ramaala, though, has provided his pedigree time and again around the world and his record includes winning the New York City Marathon in 2004.
The national men's and women's hockey teams will represent African interests in the Games. Neither is expected to make many waves, but both sides are capable of one-off performances that could undermine the challenges of some of the favourites. Both teams are ranked just outside the top 10 in the world.
Canoeing has a sizeable representation of 10 athletes. In recent years, the performance of South African paddlers on the world stage has improved markedly, but any medal won in Beijing would be a surprise. Shaun Rubenstein in the K1 500 metres and 1 000 metres is the most experienced of the canoeing contingent.
Bridget Hartley ran into some fine form just before the Olympics and became the first South African to win a gold medal at a World Cup event in Poznan, Poland when she won the 1 000 metres. Unfortunately for Hartley, she had lost out to Jennifer Hodson by one-hundredth of a second at a World Cup regatta in Hungary in June.
Seven cyclists will represent South Africa in road races, time trials, and cross country mountain biking. In addition, Sifiso Nhlapo will be in BMX action. He enjoyed a very strong season in Europe, finishing second overall in the European Championship Series standings.
Tour de France cyclists
Tour de France cyclists, Robbie Hunter and John-Lee Augustyn, will be in action in the road race, along with David George, who will also contest the time trial. The road race course is quite hilly, which is expected to favour Augustyn more than the other two South Africans. He showed in the Tour de France that he has the ability to climb with the best but, at the age of 21, his best years still lie ahead of him.
Burry Stander has achieved some fine results this season in the MTB World Cup, including winning the under-23 title at Vallnord in Andorra. He has excelled not only at age group level, but in the open age category too.
Cherise Taylor, who earlier this year became the youngest ever winner of the Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour at the age of 18, will fly the women's flag in the road race. The former winner of a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in Mexico in 2007, she is the face of a bright future for SA women’s cycling.
Bronze medal winner
Rower Ramon di Clemente, who won bronze in the men's coxless doubles at the Athens Olympics, is back for another crack at the Olympics with a new partner in Shaun Keeling.
Tennis players Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie, ranked sixth in the world in men's doubles, would have been among the top contenders for a medal. Moodie, however, was forced to withdrew from the Games because of a knee injury. Kevin Anderson will instead team up with Coetzee. He demonstrated his ability in doubles by recently reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and together with Coetzee could form a formidable combination.
Absa has put up R500 000 to be shared among any South Africans that win medals in Beijing. Absa Executive Director, Happy Ntshingila said: "We know that Team SA has done everything to prepare for their participation at the Olympic Games and we hope that this incentive will simply motivate them a little further in striving to attain the dream."
TEAM SOUTH AFRICAAquatics
Chad Ho (marathon swim), Jenna Dreyer (Diving 3m springboard), Cameron Van der Burgh (100 breaststroke, 4x100 medley) Kathryn Meaklim (400IM, 200 butterfly), Darian Townsend (200 IM, 200 freestyle, 4x100 freestyle, 4x200 freestyle) Melissa Corfe (100/200 backstroke, 200/400 freestyle), Gerhard Zandberg (100 backstroke, 4x100 freestyle, 4x100 medley) Jessica Pengelly (200/400 IM), George du Rand (100/200 backstroke) Lize-Mari Retief (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 4x100 medley), Gideon Louw (50 freestyle, 4x100 freestyle) Amanda Loots (100/200 butterfly, 4x100 medley), Jean Basson (200/400 freestyle, 4x200 freestyle) Wendy Trott (400/800 freestyle), Lyndon Ferns (100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 4x100 freestyle, 4x100 medley) Suzaan van Biljon (200 breaststroke, 4x100 medley), Neil Versfeld (200 breaststroke, 4x100 medley) Natalie du Toit (marathon swim), Riaan Schoeman (400 IM), Roland Schoeman (50 freestyle, 4x100 freestyle, 4x100 medley), Ryk Neethling (100 freestyle, 4x100 freestyle, 4x200 freestyle, 4x100 medley), Troyden Prinsloo (1 500 freestyle), William Diering (200 breaststroke, 4x100 medley), Sebastien Rosseau (4x200 freestyle), and Jan Venter (4x200 freestyle)
Ter de Villiers (400 Hurdles, 4x400 relay), Tsholofelo Thipe (400m Hurdles), Alwyn Myburgh (400 Hurdles, 4x400 relay) Elizna Naude (Discus), Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (800m), Rene Kalmer (1 500m), Samson Ngoepe (800m), Corne du Plessis (4x100 relay), Ruben Ramolefi (3 000m Steeplechase), Ishmael Kumbane (4x100 relay), Khotso Mokoena (Long Jump) Johannes Dreyer (4x100 relay), Robert Oosthuizen (Javelin) Leigh Julius (4x100 relay), Thuso Mpuang (20m) Sergio Mullins (4x100 relay), LJ van Zyl (400 Hurdles, 4x400 relay) Sibusisu Shishi (4x100 relay), Juan van Deventer (1 500m) Pieter Smith (4x100 relay), Norman Dhlomo (marathon) Ofense Mogawane (4x400 relay), Hendrick Ramaala (marathon), Justine Robbeson (javelin), Isabel le Roux (200m)
Judith Agoustides, Vitalina Nel
Jackson Chauke (51kg Flyweight)
Robbie Hunter (Road Race), John-Lee Augustyn (Road Race), David George (Road Race, Time Trial), Burry Stander (Mountain Biking, Cross Country), Yolande Speedy (Mountain Biking, Cross Country), Marissa van der Merwe (Road Race), Cherise Taylor (Road Race), Sifiso Nhlapo (BMX)
Jyoti Chetty (Women, Sabre), Adele Du Plooy (Women Sabre), Elvira Wood (Women Sabre), Michael Wood (Men's Epee), Dario Torrente (Men's Epee), Sello Maduma (Men's Epee)
Odette Richard (Rhythmic)
Ramon di Clemente (Men's Coxless Double), Shaun Keeling (Men's Coxless Double), Rika Geyser (Women's Single Scull), Kirsten McCann (Leightweight Women's Double), Alex White (Leightweight Women's Double)
Penny Alison (Ynling Fleet Racing), Dominique Provoyeur (Ynling Fleet Racing), Kim Rew (Ynling Fleet Racing)
Diane Swanton (Olympic Trap), Esmari Van Reenen(50m Small)
Kevin Andersen(Singles), Jeff Coetzee (Doubles), Wesley Moodie (Doubles)
Hendrik de Villiers, Mari Rabie, Kate Roberts
Darryn Anthony (77kg)
Chris Dednam (Doubles), Roelof Dednam (Doubles), Michelle Edwards (Doubles), Chantal Botts (Doubles)
Shaun Rubenstein (K1 500m/1 000m flatwater), Jennifer Hodson (K1 500m/K4 500m flatwater), Michelle Eray (K2 500m/K4 500m flatwater), Nikki Mocke (K4 500m flatwater), Carol Joyce (K4 500m flatwater), Bridgette Hartely (K2 500m flatwater) Calvin Mokoto (C1 500m/1 000m flatwater), Cameron McIntosh (C2 Slalom), Lindelani Ngidi (C2 Slalom), Siboniso Cele (C2 Slalom)
Geoffrey Abbott, Clyde Abrahams, Marvin Bam, Paul Blake, Andrew Cronje, Darren Gallagher, Tommy Hammond, Marvin Harper, Christopher Hibbert, Bruce Jacobs, Thornton McDade, Charles Rose-Innes, Austin Smith, Emile Smith, Ian Symons, Lungile Tsolekile
Tarryn Bright, Cindy Brown, Fiona Butler, Lisa Deetlefs, Leslie-Ann George, Kate Hector, Taryn Hosking, Vuyisanani Mangisa, Lenise Marais, Marsha Marescia, Mariette Rix, Shelly Russell, Vida Ryan, Vidette Ryan, Kathleen Taylor, Jennifer Wilson
Matthew Jago (Halfmiddleweight 81kg), Marlon August (Leightweight 73kg), Patrick Trezise (Middleweight 90kg)
Heinrich Barnes (Freestyle 66kg)
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