Meet SA’s preliminary Olympic team

2012-06-06 11:23

South Africa’s countdown to the London Olympic Games has started in earnest with the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) announcing a 112-member provisional team for the global showpiece in July and August.

Sascoc said athletes who had not yet been included in the team would have until the end of June to add their names to the final list for the SA Olympic squad.

Swimmers formed the largest contingent of the individual sports named in the preliminary team.

Among the 16 swimmers are World Championships bronze medallist Cameron van der Burgh, rising star Chad le Clos and multiple Olympic medallist Roland Schoeman.

Only four are women, with Karin Prinsloo, Kathryn Meaklim, Suzaan van Biljon and Wendy Trott getting the nod.

South Africa will be represented in the men’s ad women’s hockey tournaments after both teams reached Sascoc’s stringent qualifying standards.

The men’s side won their qualifying tournament in Japan last month, while the women ensured their Olympic participation in India in February.

Banyana Banyana, meanwhile, will make their debut at the Games after they qualified last year when they drew 1-1 against Ethiopia for a 4-1 aggregate victory in a two-leg tie.

While a number of track and field athletes were still sweating to obtain Olympic qualification, 400m hurdlers Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl, world 800m bronze medallist Caster Semenya and SA javelin throw record holder Sunette Viljoen have already been named in the team.

Of the four athletes, only Viljoen and Van Zyl have participated at previous Olympic Games.

Viljoen will compete in her third Games, having finished 17th in Beijing four years ago, while Van Zyl ended a credible fifth place at his first Games in 2008.

National 50km race walking record holder Marc Mundell will also be participating in his maiden Olympics.

The men’s marathon trio will consist of Lusapho April, Stephen Mokoka and Coolboy Ngamole, while Rene Kalmer, Tanith Maxwell and Irvette van Blerk will toe the line in the women’s race.

Siphiwe Lusizi, in the 69kg weight class, and Ayabonga Sonjica, in the 56kg class, are the only boxers in the provisional list.

Canoeist Bridgette Hartley will hope to improve on her previous Games performance in the K1 500m, while Tiffany Kruger will be flying the SA flag in the K1 200m event.

Hartley progressed to the semifinals in the K2 500m at the 2008 Beijing Games and her form in recent years suggests she could be a medal contender.

Among the cyclists in the team, mountain biker Burry Stander stands out as another of South Africa’s medal contenders. Stander finished 15th in the cross-country race in Beijing.

Despite a spate of serious injuries over the past four years, Olympic BMX finalist Sifiso Nhlapo recently qualified for the global showpiece, and was named in the preliminary team. Nhlapo crashed out in the final in Beijing.

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