Team SA make the country proud again at Commonwealth Games

2018-04-16 16:15
Double gold medal winner Caster Semenya salutes during the medal ceremony for the women’s 800?m.

Double gold medal winner Caster Semenya salutes during the medal ceremony for the women’s 800?m. (Gallo Images)

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WATCH: Team SA dazzles at the Commonwealth Games

2018-04-11 16:37

Team SA is making the country proud at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia and racked up a total of 26 medals after seven days. Watch. WATCH

They put their heart, soul and muscles into it. They also delivered some inspirational performances to stun the world. And, by the end of the Commonwealth Games on Sundday, a proud Team South Africa, who flew back home last night, had a total of 37 medals in their kitty.

The driven sporting representatives of the Rainbow Nation, with a significant Midlands presence mainly in hockey and swimming, gutsily produced 13 gold medals, 11 silver and 13 bronze.

This was equal to the number of golds, but three fewer than the overall medals pocketed at the previous Games in Glasgow, Scotland, four years ago.

Team SA finished sixth in the medal standings in Australia’s tourism mecca, one position lower than envisaged, but one higher than in Glasgow.

The Aussie home team secured first place on 198 medals, England second on 136, India a distant third on 66, Canada fourth on 82 but with fewer golds than the Indians, and New Zealand fifth on 49.

Though Team SA flew home with far fewer gongs than the leading nations, they are likely to be extremely proud of the fact that some of their members really impressed the world, not least Akani Simbine and Caster Semenya on the athletics track, Chad le Clos in the swimming pool and Henri Schoeman in triathlon.

Tatjana Schoenmaker emerged as SA’s latest female swimming sensation on the Gold Coast and breathless para-athletes also contributed to the country’s medals tally.

It was in that section that best buddies Ndodomzi Ntutu and Hilton Langenhoven touchingly stated that they had something to talk about for the rest of their tough lives after they pulled off a one-two double for SA in the visually impaired men’s T12 100 m dash.

Equally motivating, SA’s other gold medals came from long jumper Luvo Manyonga, who famously beat a drug addiction to become a star athlete, long-standing swimmer Cameron van Burgh and weightlifter Martin Erasmus.

Of course, the mighty Semenya was the flag-bearer for Team SA and she, without doubt, confirmed her status with success in the women’s 1 500 m and 800 m in record fashion — amid further controversy about gender issues — while friendly swimmer Le Clos was the other standout performer with a personal haul of three gold, one silver and one bronze (in a relay event), plus two Games records.

'It's been a privilege'

Passion and purpose ... Midlands athletes and a coach were proud and happy to represent Team South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Australia over the past two weeks, even if results were not always positive.

There were at least 12 people connected to families, schools or clubs in the “City of Choice” and surrounds on the Gold Coast, and they say they will always remember the experience of fighting in the sports arena for their country while experiencing a new place and culture.

Most members of this group were involved in men’s and women’s hockey.

Carter High School said it was extremely proud of former pupil Phumelela Mbande, who operated as goalkeeper for the SA hockey team, while swimming coach Wayne Riddin said he was overjoyed at being present to witness an official member of the local Seals club, Brad Tandy, scoop a silver medal in the men’s 50 metre freestyle event.

Maritzburg’s hockey stars Phume Mbande (Carter High), Celia Evans and Kara-Lee Botes, who both attended PMB Girls’ High, during the Games.

Mbande matriculated from Carter in 2010 but still has a close relationship with the school, making time to inspire other pupils there.

She told The Witness: “The best part about the Commonwealth Games experience has been the opportunity to interact with other athletes.

“It is unlike other tournaments in that you are not confined to your team space; you meet new people, you make friends, you exchange stories about your respective countries. It’s been an experience of a lifetime!”

Carter’s deputy principal, Debbie Nel, said they were very happy that they had played a part in shaping Mbande’s career.

Mbande’s team-mates Kara-Lee Botes and Celia Evans, both of whom attended Girls’ High School, echoed her sentiments.

Said Botes: “It’s been a privilege to be given the opportunity to represent my country at such a prestigious event and to be able to rub shoulders with some of the best athletes in the world.”

Evans said: “It’s my second Commwonwealth Games and I am just so proud to share it with so many friends. I played with Kara at Girls’ High and with Phum at club while growing up.”

They finished sixth in the Gold Coast, but their male counterparts did worse in coming 10th. The local connection in that team included former Maritzburg College pupils Tyson Dlungwana and Tevin Kok, and Tim Drummond, who attended Hilton College.

Hockey player and Maritzburg College old boy Tyson Dlungwana.

On the swimming scene, coach Riddin said he had been told by Swimming SA that he would be credited as a personal coach for Tandy and “to celebrate my 40th year of coaching I decided to take the trip to the Gold Coast as I felt Brad was definitely in contention for a medal”.

Coach Wayne Riddin (right) with Seals club swimmer Brad Tandy and Tandy’s two medals.

Indeed, Tandy, born in Ladysmith but based in the States, finished just behind England’s Benjamin Proud in the 50m freestyle final.

Said a satisfied Riddin: “This medal from one of our Seals swimmers was the first medal I managed to witness live in my 40 years of coaching at this level of competition. But I was quite overwhelmed when I told Chad le Clos this and he responded by saying ‘but you were with me in Windsor!’

“I felt bad so needed to explain that I meant a Seals swimmer from our local programme in Pietermaritzburg. But I felt good that Chad acknowledged my input from the past.”

-Nondumiso Zakwe, Sithembiso Dindi and Carl Peters

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  commonwealth games

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