SA athletes' golden target

2014-07-20 15:00

The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has set the 159 South African athletes a target of 15 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.

It’s not a tall order, given the balance of the team. Previously, swimming has proved to be the main source of medals. It brought 13 medals at the 2010 edition in Delhi, India.

Other medal certainties are athletics, rugby sevens, cycling, lawn bowls, and to some extent cycling and netball. South Africa will compete in 16 codes.

Olympic and world champion Chad le Clos said he didn’t have the best of preparations after contracting a chest infection in Europe last month.

He has still promised a good showing when he competes at Glasgow’s Tollcross International Swimming Centre from Thursday.

Le Clos won five medals – two gold (individual events), a silver and two bronze (relays) – in Team SA’s total haul of 33 in Delhi. He said he was likely to compete in four or five individual events and a relay.

“The Games are a stepping stone to the next Olympics in Rio [Brazil in 2016]. The challenge will come from Australia and the Brits. But I am not afraid to race anybody because I am driven by the hunger to win more medals for the country,” he said before departing with the team.

He and fellow Olympic medallists Cameron van der Burgh and Roland Schoeman boast 38 international medals between them.

In the 100m sprint, the fact that double Olympic silver medallist Yohan Blake won’t compete in Glasgow – coupled with Usain Bolt’s decision to compete only in the 4x100m relay – offers good chance for Simon Magakwe and Akani Simbine.

Other medal prospects on the track are LJ van Zyl, Cornel Fredericks (both 400m hurdles), Andre Olivier (800m) and Johan Cronje (1?500m).

In the field events, there are strong chances for Zarck Visser and Khotso Mokoena (jumpers), as well as javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, who is the defending champion.

Van Zyl was a silver medallist in Delhi four years ago. Predictions for Team SA medallists wouldn’t also be complete without mention of the netball and lawn bowls teams.

The netball team now features in the top six in the world. Lawn bowls brought South Africa three gold medals in 2010.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam said: “Our team must pick up at least 15 gold medals to maintain its top-five ranking. We’ll be happy with 40-plus medals.”

Sascoc has set aside R1.2?million to reward medallists. Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said his department would top up the athletes’ financial incentives.

Meanwhile, DAN RETIEF reports that South Africa’s plan to load the Sevens rugby side for the Commonwealth Games with stars from the 15-man game has come undone. But the Blitzbokke should still be a good bet for a medal.

Sevens coach Neill Powell had called in Bryan Habana and Schalk Brits but both have been withdrawn because they would have been in breach of the club competition regulations in the countries where they are now domiciled – France and England, respectively.

Apart from this, Western Province’s superstepper and sprinter Cheslin Kolbe has also been forced to cry off because of a knee injury.

The loss of the trio has resulted in call-ups for Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok and Justin Geduld in an event in which South Africa is fancied to win a medal.

The Springbok Sevens ended the HSBC Sevens World Series ranked second after New Zealand and are considered to be the one side that could pose a threat to the world champion All Blacks. An additional distinction for the Blitzbokke is the naming of Cecil Afrika as Team SA’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony at Celtic Park in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Commonwealth Games: Who to watch

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