[intro]The South African team was met with thunderous applause as they returned from the Olympics and hit home soil last week, complete with the goal of 10 medals. In the team’s best effort since 1920, we reflect on their performance and the road to the next Olympic Games in Tokyo, 2020.[/intro]
This year saw a coming of age for the South African team. They picked up where they left off in London with a four-medal improvement from the six medals won in 2012. The most exciting news for our team was our standout performance in Athletics. Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya both cruised to gold medals whilst Luvo Manyonga completed a fairytale silver. Sunette Viljoen showed her class with silver in the javelin and Akani Simbine became the first South African to run in a 100m final in almost 100 years.
There is no lack of talent in this country, and our potential is fast turning into performances. The next step, however, is to provide a platform and means of taking this talent to the next level, which should be the focus of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) over the next few years.
The biggest challenge facing athletes in this country is the financial backing. The chance of feeling the weight of an Olympic medal around the neck is only after the blood, sweat and tears of intense training sessions on a daily basis, which is hard to do when sportsmen and sportswomen cannot afford to sustain themselves outside of the training arena.
South Africa was ranked 30th on the medal table out of 250 countries and has the potential to do even better. With the proper support structure and development programmes in place we could be sitting in the top twenty during the next Olympic Games, especially if a larger team is budgeted for. Even though this year’s team was the largest sent yet (137), the hockey team stayed behind and the women’s rugby team didn’t make it to Rio. These are the teams that would have shone in Brazil.
The women’s hockey team, for instance, is currently ranked 11th in the world while the men’s team is ranked at 14 worldwide. Furthermore, the women’s sevens rugby team was not considered for the games despite winning the African qualifying tournament beating Kenya (who did travel to Rio) in the process.
For now we celebrate our athletes and the spectacular performances all round. Come tomorrow however it is time for the national bodies of the various sporting codes to start putting in more infrastructure so that come 2020 we can speak of an even better performance!