Take A Bow, South Africa!

Let us begin by saluting the men and women representing South Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.  Team SA returns from Rio with 10 medals – the best ever effort by a South African team at the Games.  Included in that tally are athletics super stars Wayde Van Niekerk and Caster Semenya.  The former powered his way to a world record win in the men’s 400 metres while the latter left the 800 metres women’s field in her wake on her way to gold.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 15:  Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa is crowned Olympic champion as he gets his gold medal for winning the 400m for men's race. Olympic athletics day four Finals on August 15, 2016 at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by ©Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

South Africa’s silver medals were won by Cameron Van Der Burgh; who started it all off in the men’s 100 metre breaststroke, Chad Le Clos (men’s 200 metre freestyle and 100 metre butterfly), Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain (men’s coxless pair), Luvo Manyonga (long jump) and Sunette Viljoen (javelin).  The Blitzbokke delivered a bronze medal in seven’s rugby, as did Henri Schoeman in the men’s triathlon.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL. 14 AUGUST 2016. Luvo Manyonga during the  medal ceremony for the long jump at the Olympic Stadium at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games today.  Copyright picture by WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA


It is interesting to note that Le Clos finished fourth in the men’s 200 metre butterfly while the men’s lightweight double sculls and coxless four boats both finished fourth in their finals.  On another day, in a different location it could have been three more medals to the South Africans.  Factor in Akani Simbine’s hamstring injury and Anaso Jobodwana’s pelvic problems and a 100% fit athletics contingent might well have delivered an additional sprinting medal; most likely Jobodwana in the 200 metre where emulating his personal best of 19.87 seconds would have been good enough for silver at the Olympic Stadium.  Mind you a Simbine PB of 9.89 seconds would have secured silver alongside Justin Gatlin at these Games.  We cannot ignore Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) criminal negligence in not entering a South African relay team.  Simbine, Jobodwana, Van Niekerk and Henricho Bruintjies possess some serious gas and would almost certainly be on the podium in the 4x100m and/or the 4x200m relays.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Wade van Niekerk of South Africa is the new Olympic champion and world record holder in the mens 400m at the Olympic athletics day three Finals on August 14, 2016 at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by ©Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

Suddenly a target of 16 medals does not look out of place.  The problem is that we are asking for perfect conditions for this to take place but when you are South Africa at the Olympics, you need that.  The United States, China and Great Britain are the heavyweights of the Olympic Games.  They operate at a level beyond the reach of the South Africans.  If Team SA suffers an injury or two, or someone has an off day, or is disqualified, there is no shot at redemption.  To give it context, we are celebrating a best-ever return of 10 medals whereas that is almost the daily tally of the USA. 

Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony on August 05, 2016 in Rio, Brazil.  ©Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

Still, it looks promising ahead of Tokyo 2020 and perhaps South Africa can start getting used to this kind of return.  Things are looking promising; Le Clos, Manyonga and Schoeman are still at very good ages, the rowers are clearly doing something right and the Blitzbokke should be perennial contenders.  So where could more medals come from?

Now is not only the time for corporate South Africa to come on board and assist but also for SASCOC to shift up a gear – and put pressure on ASA to get their house in order.  Imagine a similar return of 10 medals in four years’ time.  Imagine if it could actually be around 15 medals.  And what if SASCOC took a strategic decision to throw money at gymnastics and boxing?  Why those two?  Because similar to swimming and athletics there are several disciplines which increases the likelyhood of being able to medal.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL. 9 AUGUST 2016. Chad le Clos during the 200m butterfly final at Rio 2016 Olympic Games tonight.  Copyright picture by WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA Copyright picture by WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA


For example in football you have one chance to finish in the top three.  Whereas in boxing there are 13 weight divisions (men and women) and gymnastics offers 18 medal events.  That equals 93 medals.  Swimming offers 104 medals in total and athletics 141.  Consider that South Africa generally delivers around three medals in swimming and athletics, and perhaps the same potential for gymnastics and boxing; something in which this country has traditionally produced talent in abundance, and you have a scenario in which SASCOC could target “20 medals in 2020” and it would be difficult to scoff. 

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL. 3 AUGUST 2016.  Tubby Reddy, chef de misson of Team SA during an interview  in the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro today.  Copyright picture by WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA


SASCOC and ASA have seldom managed to get it right but here is a golden opportunity.  Don’t disappoint us now.