Different Olympic ideals for SA sports stars

Kevin Anderson (AFP)
Kevin Anderson (AFP)

A mixture of unrestrained joy, relief and anticipation enveloped the entire South African squad and coach Owen de Gama after barely scraping a place into next year's Olympic Games via the back-to-the-wall penalty shootout win over Senegal for third place in CAF's Under-23 Nations Cup tournament.

It mirrored the scene after Banyana Banyana previously secured a place in the women's soccer segment of world sport's most comprehensive event that is expected to attract more than 10 500 competitors from 206 nations and will feature for the first time rugby sevens and golf.

However, it would seem, not all South African sportsmen share the feelings of the soccer players and those from a variety of other codes in savouring the unique Olympic experience.

An example is Kevin Anderson, who unlike the soccer players who experienced blood, sweat and tears merely to secure a place at the Olympiad, the world's 12th-ranked tennis player needed only to have represented his country twice in the Davis Cup in the past four years in accordance with International Tennis Federation rules to have qualified automatically for the tournament that will be staged in Rio de Janeiro.

Anderson has elected not to participate in the Davis Cup for the past five years and is therefore one of the few top 20 world tennis players not currently eligible to play in the Olympic Games.

It is, of course, his prerogative to gauge the importance of competing in the Olympic Games, not to mention the Davis Cup in which he could be a pivotal influence for South Africa in much the same way as Andy Murray who almost single-handed this month carried Great Britain to a first triumph in the event in 79 years.

Unfortunately, however, it also means that with Anderson spurning the Olympic Games, South African tennis will not be represented in the Olympic Games next year - something the under-exposed set-up in the country can ill-afford at this juncture.

Apart from the 64-player men's singles, Anderson in partnership with 20th-ranked world doubles player, Raven Klaasen, who, one imagines, would dearly love to participate in the Olympic Games, would in all probability be accepted in the men's doubles as well.

Without Anderson as a potential partner, Klaasen has little chance of being billeted for Brazil because no other South Africans measure up to the ranking required for Olympic Games tennis qualification in which Wayne Ferreira and Pietie Norval secured a silver medal some 20 years ago and the country has gained other notable successes.

But there is golf and rugby sevens to look forward too, and, who knows, maybe the soccer teams will rise to the occasion and confound the sceptics too!

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