Boost for local athletes

Gideon Sam (Gallo Images)
Gideon Sam (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa’s top athletes will be spending more time at European training camps in the build-up to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) revealed on Tuesday.

The Olympic body said it had secured a world-class training facility in Gemona, Italy which athletes would use as a springboard to competitions in Europe until 2016.

“We want to focus on our athletes and these camps we are going to have,” Sascoc president Gideon Sam said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“Our first camp will be in Gemona which will become a permanent camp for us until 2016.

“Early in the new year, we will be taking judo, cycling and boxing to Georgia. We are giving athletes an opportunity to train in Europe and then compete, instead of coming back to South Africa in between.”

Sam, together with Sascoc’s high performance general manager Ezera Tshabangu, visited Italy to conduct extensive research into the planned project.

Sascoc and the Italian Olympic Committee were scheduled to sign a Memorandum of Understanding next Tuesday.

“This is part of our drive to have various international training bases throughout the world,” Sam said.

“I have always been of the opinion that to assist our athletes to compete on the European circuit, we need to help those based in Europe so that they can stay for longer periods of competition. National federations will also be able to have their training camps at this base.

“Naturally we will reciprocate in terms of other countries sending athletes to South Africa.”

A delegation of representatives from athletics, boxing, canoeing, judo and swimming would travel on a reconnaissance mission next week.

Among the athletes making the trip was Olympic canoeing bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, sprint sensation Anaso Jobodwana and swimmers Myles Brown, Tatum Tarpey and Lahesta Kemp.

Para-athlete Tebogo Mokgalagadi and boxers Ayabonga Sonjica and Siphiwe Lusizi would also attend the camp.

Top coaches Graham Hill (swimming), Johan Prinsloo (boxing), Vincent Redpath (judo) and Hartley’s personal coach Nandor Almasi would accompany Hezekiel Sepeng, who managed the athletics contingent at the London Olympic Games.

“They will test the facilities on offer in the region and give their feedback to the authorities,” Tshabangu said.

Meanwhile, the Olympic body highlighted the achievements of athletes who were part of Sascoc's Operation Excellence programme.

These included the two gold medals won by Chad Le Clos and one by Cameron van der Burgh at the Fina Swimming World Championships and Johan Cronje’s bronze medal run in the men’s 1500-metre event at the IAAF Athletics Championships.

Paralympic swimmer Charl Bouwer shone with four medals, including a silver at the IPC Swimming World Championships while there were also medals for Kevin Paul (gold) and Hendri Herbst.

Veteran Paralympian Ilse Hayes won gold and silver at IPC Athletics World Championships while Dyan Buis and Anrun Liebenberg both bagged two silver medals each.

Handcyclist Ernst van Dyk won two silvers at the IPC World Road Championships and tennis ace Lucas Sithole became the first African to win the quad singles at the US Open.

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