Meet KZN’s Olympians

2012-06-07 00:00

A LIST of 112 names making up Team South Africa’s provisional squad (coaches included) for the 2012 London Olympics was released yesterday.

While there were very few surprises in the Sascoc announcement, the bulk of country’s Olympians will be made up of both the men’s and women’s hockey squads, as well as the women’s football squad — affectionately known as Banyana Banyana.

South Africa will compete in a total of 16 sporting codes, including archery and weightlifting. Six of the 16 swimmers in the squad come from KwaZulu-Natal, with Darian Townsend adding to his Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 experiences.

Once again there seems to be some focus on the relays ,with Jean Basson, Sebastien Rousseau and Leith Shankland likely to be part of the 4x200 and 4x100 squad, while Chad le Clos will be watched closely by supporters in Mzansi as he attempts to live up to expectations as one of the country’s top medal contenders.

Kloof’s Tanith Maxwell is the only KZN representative on the track and she will join Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Blerk in the marathon.

“I’m ecstatic,” Maxwell told The Witness yesterday. “It’s been hard work. I missed out on Beijing by literally a few seconds and now it’s here! It’s the biggest moment of my running career.”

In 2004, Maxwell targeted the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne before setting sight on the Olympics and now hopes to break the 2 hours 30 minutes mark.

“I’m looking forward to getting on the road, representing SA and giving my all,” she added.

It will be the first time that South Africa has sent a full men’s and women’s marathon team to the Olympics.

There is an abundance of provincial representation in the men’s hockey squad with Marvin Harper, Taine Paton, Wade Paton (all Maritzburg College), Lloyd Madsen (Kearsney) and Timothy Drummond (Hilton College) all having schooled in Pietermaritzburg.

“London is going to be amazing, we are in a tough pool but we have a good group of guys and we are going there to fight,” an excited Harper said yesterday.

Harper, who was part of the Beijing Olympic squad four years ago, praised the developmental structures in the Pietermaritzburg region as the reason for there being such a strong contingent of players from the area in the national squad.

“There are just some fantastic schools with fantastic facilities in the area and they have all produced some really good players,” he said.

Durban Girls’ High school teacher Lenise Marais, a member of the women’s hockey squad currently battling it out in the Investec London Cup in Chiswick, was equally thrilled to be named in the Olympic squad.

“I am delighted to be going to my second Olympics,” the 27-year-old defender with 171 Test caps said. “This team has the drive and determination to make South Africans proud,” she added.

For Banyana, this Olympics will be their first. Drawn in the “group of death” alongside Japan, Sweden and Canada, captain Amanda Dlamini from Harding knows that her side will be up for some real hard playing.

“We are definitely not afraid to compete, we just have to go out there and do South Africans proud,” the central attacking midfielder said.

There was joy for Pietermaritzburger Zama Cele, who said that being selected in the Banyana squad for London was the greatest achievement of her career.

“I am so happy because this is the first time that I have been given an opportunity to represent my country in an occasion as big as this,” said an elated Cele. “I am going to make Pietermaritzburg and South Africa proud.”

Elsewhere in the province, Port Shepstone-based Burry Stander is in the nine-member cycling team that will be looking to get amongst the medals.

The final deadline for the squad is June 30, with athletes such as long jumper Khotso Mokoena expected to be added.

“This is a very good team and I have no doubt that there is lots of medal potential,” said Sascoc president Gideon Sam.

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