Condolences continued to pour in yesterday following the tragic death of former world 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.
The suave former athlete many considered a national hero died on Friday aged 34 in a car crash on his way to a Johannesburg athletics meeting.
His untimely death has left the entire country and sports fraternity devastated.
President Jacob Zuma said: “The nation has lost a true hero and one of our most disciplined and talented athletes, who flew the South Africa flag across the sporting world.
“We wish to convey, on behalf of the government and the entire nation, our heartfelt condolences to his family, Athletics South Africa, the South African sporting fraternity and the International Olympic Committee.”
The Sports Ministry office said: “Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has just received the sad news of the untimely death of the South African 800m icon.”
The ANC Youth League said it was disturbed by the passing of “the All Africa Games and World Championship star”.
“He was literally our country’s flag-bearer in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece and our symbolic flag-bearer in all the international engagements he has ever participated in,” it said.
South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee CEO, Tubby Reddy said the organisation was devastated by the death of an “icon in South African sport who raised the nation’s flag high in international sporting events.”
Softly spoken Mulaudzi had an enviable record on the track during his illustrious running career before injuries forced him into retirement last year.
The Limpopo-born middle distance runner, who started running as a grade two pupil and had an aptitude for most sports, including soccer, burst on to the international scene by snatching a gold medal at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
He won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and earned gold at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany. The accomplishments were the highlights of his distinguished athletics career.
One still vividly remembers the memorable moment in 2004 when the king of the track carried his country’s flag with pride at the opening ceremony of the Athens spectacle. It remains to be seen who will motivate the country’s budding athletes, now that this gentle giant is no more.
May his soul rest in peace!