Springbok utility back Francois Hougaard was on Thursday evening presented with an Olympic bronze medal to replace the one he gave away to teammate Seabelo Senatla.
Hougaard was a reserve for the SA Sevens team at the recent Rio Olympics where rugby made its return to the gathering for the first time in 92 years.
Hougaard only appeared in the semifinal against Great Britain and the third/fourth match against Japan‚ having replaced the injured Senatla‚ but found himself on the podium when SA took bronze.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) only allocated 12 medals per squad for the event‚ and Hougaard was the 13th player.
Although he was the recipient of the medal on the podium‚ Hougaard later gave it to Senatla‚ who had played in the first four matches at the Olympics‚ as well as starring for the Blitzboks the entire season. It was a selfless act by Hougaard and one that rightly earned him praise.
But behind the scenes several officials worked to convince and IOC to award Hougaard a medal for what was essentially the most Olympian of gestures.
As the Boks departed for the Australasian leg of the Rugby Championship from Johannesburg on Thursday night‚ Hougaard was surprised when fellow Blitzbok and Bok teammate Juan de Jongh presented him with a new Rio bronze medal.
Work behind the scenes from Team SA and SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee officials‚ Rugby Sevens Team Manager‚ Ashley Evert‚ as well as Hari Coelho‚ medal ceremonies manager in Rio‚ and Marjorie Enya‚ competition services manager‚ made it possible.
“This is a wonderful surprise and something I really didn’t expect‚” Hougaard said.
“When I gave the medal the Seabelo‚ I felt he deserved it more than I did‚ and I still feel so‚ but having played a part in Rio‚ I’m very grateful to have received this medal and I would like to thank everyone involved in making it possible. It’s something I will cherish for many years as one of the best moments of my rugby career.”
— TMG Digital