Only the best will go to Rio

Sascoc President, Gideon Sam. Picture: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Sascoc President, Gideon Sam. Picture: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

About 60 athletes have already met the stringent SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) Olympic Games qualifying standards.

This is the status of Sascoc’s “Road to Rio” campaign, with seven months to go before the multicoded event starts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy said: “At the moment, 60 have qualified and this includes Banyana Banyana and the rugby Sevens team. If you haven’t satisfied our qualifying criteria, it’s non-negotiable.”

He was speaking to City Press following the Olympic governing body’s press conference that reiterated its stance on not allowing the national men’s and women’s hockey teams to go, despite the two sides having won African titles in October.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam maintained the decision was not hurting the country’s ambitions for the Commonwealth Games South Africa would host in Durban in 2022.

Sam said the Olympic controlling body would review the team selection criteria after the Rio Games.

“We must plan ahead for the 2018 Gold Coast [Commonwealth Games] and Tokyo 2020 [Olympics]. In 2022, we can’t host and fail to perform,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reddy said Sascoc was still expecting Team SA to swell to more than 100 athletes by the Olympics.

“Qualifying deadlines for codes such as athletics and swimming will come closer to the Games,” said Reddy.

Already a number of track and field athletes attained their entry marks at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, in August, and in the same month canoeing qualified a kayaking boat at the International Canoe Federation Canoe Sprint World Championships in Italy.

London Olympic Games bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley initially missed out on the first allocated places in the Olympic qualification process, but her semifinal finish in the 500m K1 at the Milan championships was enough to see her through.

The likes of world number one and global 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk and javelin bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen have also provisionally booked their berths.

They, however, still have to prove their form closer to the Olympics. The qualifying window period for track and field will only close in July next year.

Banyana were among the most recent additions to the Rio-bound Team SA after they qualified as one of the top two teams in the Confederation of African Football’s women’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

They overcame Equatorial Guinea 1-0 on aggregate in the fourth round play-off in October. Banyana – who will take 18 players to Rio – joined another team sport, the men’s rugby Sevens side, after the Blitzbokke secured their spot in the World Rugby Sevens Series in Glasgow, Scotland in May.

Three sailors have also qualified. In Haifa, Israel, in October, Asenathi Jim and Roger Hudson earned the South African 470-class sailing team a spot at the world championships. Their feat matched that of Laser sailor Stefano Marcia, who qualified earlier this year.

In terms of the budget for Team SA, Sascoc said the only financial challenge was around the team’s preparations.

“We don’t have the capacity to fund everybody as we do with the little we have for the Opex [Operation Excellence] programme,” said Reddy.

“The large part of the services [at the Olympics] is provided for by the organisers when it comes to meals and accommodation. There is also a subsidy for the athletes’ air tickets.”

  • The SA men’s Under-23 football team can also still qualify after they beat Tunisia 1-0 on Friday to reach the semifinals of the ongoing CAF Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations that ends in Senegal on Saturday. The team must finish in the top three to reach Rio.

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