[intro] Young South Africans, led by the incredible Wayde van Niekerk, are slowly but surely establishing themselves on the sports stages of the world. As they exhibit their talent in track, field and in the swimming pools, they are shattering records as well as the apartheid dream of racial superiority that suppressed the potential of so many South Africans for so long.[/intro]
Van Niekerk smashed the men’s track and field world record and claimed Olympic gold during the 400m race this week. We celebrate his win and bring the sports fanatic out of every reader with our top five South African champs who are making headlines at the Olympics.
Wayde van Niekerk ‘Jou lekker ding’
Wayde van Niekerk (24) made world record history this week when he won the 400m on Monday. “I believed I could get the world record. I’ve dreamed of this medal forever,” said Van Niekerk in an interview with The Guardian.
Just a few months ago he became the first person in history to run the 400m in under 44s, the 200m in under 20s and a sub 10s run for the 100m. Speed is in his blood, his mother Odessa Swarts, displayed talent as an athlete at a young age but was unable to pursue a career in sport due to under-resourced communities during the oppressive apartheid regime. But van Niekerk did his mother and South Africa proud on Monday, as he produced one of the greatest runs of Olympic history.
Starting in lane number eight he was effectively ‘running blind’, meaning he would have no view of the other athletes throughout the race. This did not affect him in the slightest as he put the hammer down in the last 200m to clock a new world record time of 43.03 and claim South Africa’s first gold of the Games. Van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s 43.18 record, and wrote his name into the history books! Well done Wayde!
Hands off our Champ Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya (25) is our fastest female champion. She won gold in the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships, finishing in 1.55 seconds. She also won silver in the 800m at the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics. Earlier this year she made history by winning all three titles at the South African Championships. She breezed through to win the 400m with a time of 50.74; her 800m time was 1:58.45 and her 1,500m time was just 4:10.93.
She’s proved to be an unstoppable force despite discriminatory practices which saw her undergo gender testing by the International Association of Athletics Federation in 2009. She was only 18 at the time. South Africans came out in their droves to support the athlete with the hashtag #HandsOffCaster which trended last week, after international media raised the issue of her gender once again.
Semenya will run her 800m heat today at 3.55PM whilst the final is scheduled for the closing day on 21 August. Should Semenya stay true to her form it looks very likely that she could produce a gold medal with her country well behind her. Don’t miss it.
Jobodwana has the potential to stun the crowds
Anaso Jobodwana (24) burst onto the scene when he made it into the 200m final back in London 2012 as a 20-year -old novice where he finished last. He’s come a long way since then. The Eastern Cape born athlete attended Jackson State University in the USA in a bid to take his sprinting to the next level however since his Olympic final he’s had a bad string of injuries that have kept him from running on a regular basis.
After being sidelined for the 2014 season, Jobodwana returned in 2015 great form. His best performance so far saw him secure third place at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, where he is often pictured crossing the line next to Jamaican champion Usain Bolt.
Yesterday Jobodwana went out in the first round of the 200m and ended fourth in his heat with a time of 20.53. Despite the disappointment, he’s shown talent and promise as a young champion. As long as the injuries stay at bay, the young athlete has the potential to once again stun the crowds.
Le Clos vs Phelps
Chad Le Clos (24) left the world speechless when he beat Michael Phelps to claim gold in the 200m butterfly in London 2012 and a silver for the 100m butterfly. The young swimmer was looking to pick up where he left off as one of South Africa’s brightest gold medal prospects.
The Durban born swimmer quickly became regarded as one of the best in the world after his 2010 Olympic win, and his seven medal success at the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow. He started off on a good note when he bagged a silver in the men’s 200m freestyle event however things did not shape up as he would have hoped. His 200m butterfly defence fell apart when the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, cruised to victory with le Clos finishing fourth. He finished his Olympic participation with a three way split tie silver in the 100m freestyle to cap off what was in the end a disappointing performance from one of the stars in the South African Olympic team.
Luvo’s leap of faith
Long-jumper Luvo Manyonga (25) inspired the world with his performance on Sunday, winning a silver Olympic medal (short of gold by just a centimeter) with a distance of 837m on his sixth and final leap.
His is a story of talent and endurance. Manyonga beat the odds, not only against the overwhelming structural barriers facing township youth, but also methamphetamine (tik), one of the most addictive drugs to hit the streets of South Africa.