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Editorial | SA athletes step up to the plate

Akani Simbine, Anaso Jobodwana, Henricho Bruintjies and Emile Erasmus celebrate with their flag after the athletics men's 4x100m relay final
Akani Simbine, Anaso Jobodwana, Henricho Bruintjies and Emile Erasmus celebrate with their flag after the athletics men's 4x100m relay final
Image: Saeed Khan/AFP

South Africa’s strong showing across many disciplines at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games augurs well for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

When the curtain came down on the Games yesterday, Team South Africa had won 37 medals and finished sixth overall, one position up from 2014. Included in that tally were 13 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze medals.

What makes South Africa’s achievement even more remarkable is that it came against the backdrop of a ministerial inquiry into governance issues at Sascoc.

Earlier this year, the inquiry had been told that Sascoc was dysfunctional. Desiree Wardhan, in charge of coaching at Sascoc, told the inquiry that the environment at work was very toxic and threatening.

She alleged that she had been shocked to discover in 2016 that the budget for the year was less than R300 000, but that the government had given Sascoc R2.4-million specifically for coaching.
Despite these claims and clear unhappiness at Sascoc, South Africa’s athletes still managed to step up to the plate in Australia.

Port Elizabeth was particularly proud of the gold medal won by long-jumper Luvo Manyonga, who is now based at Nelson Mandela University. The Bay’s adopted son now has an Olympic silver medal from Rio, a world championship gold from London and the Commonwealth gold behind his name.

There is also a lesson in overcoming difficulties behind Manyonga’s phenomenal success story. Now over his well-documented struggle with drugs, Manyonga had some sound advice for youngsters around the globe.

He urged people with drug issues to get help and said that anything was possible.

The other Bay success story was Mona Pretorius’s bronze medal. Now based in Texas, it took years of hard work and perseverance to achieve her goal of a podium finish. Pretorius, who admits she is a very competitive athlete, said she had set small goals for herself and by achieving each of them she felt confident she would ultimately achieve what she set out to accomplish.

These achievements should serve to encourage South Africa’s next generation of athletes that the sky is the limit if one’s mind is applied properly.

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