Sascoc bank on Baby Bafana to net Olympic medal

2011-08-13 18:54

South African Sports ­Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam has touted Baby Bafana among the 2012 ­London Olympic Games ­medallists.

Sam said he was optimistic that soccer was a medal ­certainty in the Olympic ­governing body’s “12 medals in 2012” ­target.

And he believed the national Under-12 team had what it would take to romp home with a medal.

“We have big hopes for Shakes Mashaba’s team (the under-23s) to make it through and they can bring us a medal.
The women’s team have also done well and if we can have the two soccer teams in London,­­ ­anything is possible,” said Sam in a wide-ranging interview this week.

He added that given the swimming team’s reputation, he was disappointed with their ­performance at the recent World Championships where they ­finished 25th with a paltry three bronze medals.

This display was equivalent to the performances of 1996 in ­Atlanta which pointed to a ­decline.

Sam, however, said experienced swimmers such as ­Cameron van der Burgh, Chad le Clos, Chad Ho and the relay team, would get support from Sascoc in the hope they would do “better than the three medals” they brought back from Shanghai, China, last month.

Baby Bafana will earn a berth in London, should they ­advance in the group stages in ­December. They have already qualified for the All Africa Games in Mozambique next month.

“The road to London is long with less than a year out now. But I am optimistic that we can still get the 12 medals we are targeting. If soccer qualifies, we will meet with Safa to get their programme and give them all the support they need. We will do the same with other codes.”

“Swimming’s performance took us back to 1996 and you would want to see progress. It worked in Australia (in 2000) and Athens (in 2004). We should be talking about five or six medals. But there is hope if we were to take the five ­experienced swimmers and ­support them.”

Sam said other medal prospects were in athletics, ­cycling, BMX, canoeing, ­gymnastics, rowing and taekwondo.
Adorning the wall in Sam’s ­office, was a white marker board with three pointers under a bold headline “Threats”.

The notes read: “Injuries, few athletes meeting qualifying standards and the funding of national federations at ­qualification events.”

BMX star Sifiso Nhlapo and gymnast Jennifer Khwela were currently nursing injuries.

As for funding, the interview switched to the financial crisis that plagued Athletics South Africa on the eve of the track and field world championships later this month.

“We can’t deny there were stumbling blocks. The financial issue was the administration of funding by the previous ­administrators. While they (ASA) were going through that, at least there was support for the elite athletes such as ­Ruben Ramolefi and Sunette Viljoen. It was our initiation that got them lotto money.

“I am happy they are over that and the new leadership have taken upon themselves to bring change.”

Despite the shambles that had prevailed in athletics for two years, Sam said three medals from the world championships would be a big encouragement.

“But where are those medals going to come from? We have to look at the likes of Luvo ­Manyonga, Khotso Mokoena (both long jump), Caster ­Semenya and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (both 800m).”

Sam also revealed that the long-standing tiff between ­Sascoc and Mokoena had been ­resolved.

As a result, the 2008 Olympic medallist has been included in Sascoc’s Operation Excellence programme, which offered elite athletes financial and training support in the build-up to the Olympics.

“We are now 100% behind him wherever he wants to go and compete and he is part of the Opex programme,” concluded Sam.

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