‘That’s about it, we’re off to London’

2012-06-30 19:51

President Zuma will host team for farewell dinner in Pretoria

Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius’ dream of competing in his first Olympic Games with able-bodied opponents is not completely shattered.

Despite missing qualification in his specialist 400m event during the African Athletics Championships in Benin this week, Pistorius is still in with a chance to make the 4x400m relay team.

This week the blade runner won silver in a time of 45.52, which was outside the 45.30 Olympic A-standard mark.

But by virtue of running the fastest time in the one-lap event this year, he should be named in the 4x400m relay team at next week’s announcement of the final Olympic Team South Africa.

Athletics SA and Sascoc selection criteria considers athletes with a B-standard for the relay team provided they ranked in the top eight in the world.

Pistorius clocked an A-standard (45.20) in March and his chances are enhanced by the fact that he was part of the team that won silver at the IAAF World Championships last year.

By yesterday, Andre Olivier was the only addition to the athletics Olympic team after his 1:45.09 in the 800m event for a bronze medal in Benin breached the 1:45.60 qualifying mark.

He attained his first A-standard mark (1:45.20) in Holland in May.

Sprinter Simon Magakwe – who was among the eight track and field athletes who were on one Olympic qualifying mark in Benin – missed out on Olympic qualification in the 100m.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam said Wednesday’s announcement would be a mere formality as it would be two weeks before the 100-odd Team SA departed for London.

“Athletics was the last qualifying code and that’s about it,” said Sam.

Already the core of the team – which consisted of 112 athletes across 15 sporting codes – was made known last month.

“Most of the athletes are now preparing for the Games and some would not have made it if we were to call a press conference for the final announcement,” Sam said at the unveiling of Sasol as the latest sponsor to come on board as Team SA partners.

The petrochemical giant signed an agreement – estimated at about R8 million by parties close to the deal – that extended beyond their properties Banyana Banyana and the men’s wheelchair basketball team in the London-bound group.

The two squads were among the first codes to qualify for the Olympics.

Sam said: “Sasol has been involved in our sport for a long time. We did not want to short-change them but at the same time we don’t want to sell ourselves short in the market, hence we welcomed them as the team partners.”

In the other events prior to the team’s departure to the United Kingdom for the July 27 to August 12 quadrennial event, Sam said July 18 was pencilled in for the farewell banquet dinner.

“President Jacob Zuma will host the team for a farewell dinner in Pretoria. They will depart for London the following day,” he said.

Some athletes have already received send-offs from their provinces. Last weekend, Port Elizabeth hosted a farewell party for marathon runner Lusapho April, boxers Siphiwe Lusizi and Ayabonga Sonjica, athletes who hail from the Eastern Cape.

“It has been non-stop work for the last four years and I am comfortable where we are now,” said Sam.

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