The world is preparing for the XXXI Games of the Olympiad, or the 2016 Olympic Games to you and me. History will be made as the Games take place in South America for the first time. This also leaves Africa as the only continent yet to host the Olympics. Nevertheless, African countries will be in Rio De Janeiro in full force looking to once again showcase the continent’s most magnificent athletes. South Africa performed admirably four years ago in London, even topping the African medals table (on the strength of gold medals won, not overall tally).
So impressive were the South Africans that they actually left London with their most successful showing at an Olympics yet. Cameron Van Der Burgh, Chad Le Clos (pictured above) and the men’s rowers brought home the gold while Le Clos and Caster Semenya bagged silvers to go with Bridgitte Hartley’s bronze. Six medals, three gold, represented the country’s best return post isolation. This writer believes Africa’s southernmost country can come back with even more in 2016 and reckons there could be as many as 10 in the bag this time around.
Starting with the swimmers Le Clos is once again expected to be the country’s flag bearer. The Durbanite won two medals four years ago and his dual with recently unretired Michael Phelps should be a highlight. Van Der Burgh is under pressure from Great Britain’s Adam Peaty, but still looks in good enough shape to medal.
Prediction: Three medals for Team South Africa in the pool.
Photo credit: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA
Athletics is the other area where the South Africans usually look for success. Wayde Van Niekerk is simply sublime and the hot favourite to win the 400 metres event while Caster Semenya is looking a shoe-in for the 800 metres title. It’s such a shame Athletics South Africa could not get its house in order because Van Niekerk, Akani Simbine, Henricho Bruintjies and Anaso Jobodwana could have formed a formidable 100- or 200 metres relay team. Jobodwana (pictured above) took bronze at the World Championships last year and there is no reason why he cannot emulate that feat in Brazil. Watch out for Sunette Viljoen, who medalled last year in Beijing, in the women’s javelin. This is a last crack at the Olympics for her and she will want to go out on a high after missing out in London. Also since becoming a father LJ Van Zyl has had a new lease on life and could be a dark horse in the 400 metre hurdles.
Prediction: Three medals, two gold.
Blitzbok flyer Seabelo Senatla evades another tackle on his way to the tryline.
Photo credit: Martin Seras Lima
The reintroduction of rugby after a 92-year absence will provide countries like Fiji and Samoa with an opportunity to collect a preciously rare Olympic Games gold medal. However New Zealand, England and the United States of America, defending champions no less, as well as South Africa, the Commonwealth champions, will have something to say about that.
Prediction: The Blitzbokke will medal but what colour will it be?
South Africa’s rowers (pictured above) stunned every one save themselves and ace coach Roger Barrow four years ago. The lightweight fours rowed their way to Olympic glory but Matthew Brittain, since retired, and Sizwe Ndlovu are no longer part of the action. This scribe’s feeling is that Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann have an excellent chance to finish on the podium in the women’s lightweight double sculls. However, rowing could well yet deliver two medals in Rio.
Prediction: One medal.
The likes of Hartley, Richard Murray (triathlon), Ashley Moolman-Pasio (cycling) and Myles Brown (swimming) all have it in them to pull something off on the day. Several high profile absentees in the golf tournament mean that event is also wide open. There is always a surprise and calling where it will come from is an impossible task.
Based on my reading of the situation, I fancy Team SA to return with eight medals. Gideon Sam says the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee is aiming for 10, which to be fair to the suits at SASCOC seems far more attainable than their “12 medals in 2012” target.
Here’s wishing the South Africans the very best in Rio and may they be faster, higher and stronger than ever before.