Olympic team takes shape

2012-06-02 16:18

‘Relatively small’ first batch of athletes to be revealed by Sascoc this week

The South African Olympic team for London is standing at 120 – and counting.

This is the number that is expected to be announced on Wednesday by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) when it reveals the first batch of athletes who have qualified for the Olympics.

President Gideon Sam said the number was relatively small compared with the list that had qualified for Beijing at this point four years ago.

“The funny thing is that team sports – Banyana Banyana, hockey (men’s and women’s) – account for 50% of the make-up,” said Sam. “We had more than 200 athletes this time for Beijing. But we are hoping more athletes will qualify for London.”

South Africa was represented across 19 codes at the China spectacle in 2008 and Sam said more slots had been grabbed recently.

“We have qualified slots in athletics, four slots in cycling, one each for weightlifting and judo, a pair in sailing, the men’s and women’s doubles in badminton, and two in boxing.”

Just last weekend, BMX star Sifiso Nhlapo became the latest to earn his place via a semifinal finish during the World Championships to join mountain biker Burry Stander in the cycling team.

Judoka Jacques van Zyl will be the country’s only contender in the judo Under-73kg category after he sealed his qualification with a silver medal during the Africa Championships in Morocco in April.

The boxers, Ayabonga Sonjica (bantamweight) and Siphiwe Lusizi (welterweight), also qualified in Morocco last month during the African Boxing Olympic qualification tournament.

More track and field athletes are in the running for places, with middle-distance runner Johan Cronje and Andre Olivier the latest to net their first Olympic A-standard qualifiers.

Former Olympic medallist Khotso Mokoena has also qualified for the long jump while another medallist, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (800m), is one of those expected to swell the numbers during the ongoing European track and field season.

Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius is also on the brink of qualification in the 400m, having already attained his first A-standard time.

Marc Mundell qualified in the 50km at the World Race Walking Cup in Russia last month.

Other track and field athletes who have confirmed their berths in London are Caster Semenya (800m), LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks (both 400m hurdles), Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and Willem Coertzen (decathlon).

There are also marathon teams of three men and an equal number of women.

Sam said the qualified swimmers were “already preparing in Europe and will conclude their camp in Monaco, France”.

“They are already benefiting from operation excellence and the R26 million contributed by the minister (Fikile Mbalula) to assist those who have qualified for the Games with their preparations.”

The final Team SA will be announced on July 4.

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