No pressure on Team SA's Tokyo Olympic heroes, says sports minister Mthethwa

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Nathi Mthethwa (Gallo Images)
Nathi Mthethwa (Gallo Images)

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa insisted that there is no pressure on Team SA's contingent at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympics is officially set to get underway on Friday and will close on 8 August.

READ | Chad le Clos, Phumelela Mbande to carry SA flag at Olympics opening ceremony

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the then-Minister of Sports and Recreation Fikile Mbalula gave the team a 10 medal target, which the contingent accomplished.

Mthethwa, who could not travel to Japan due to the ongoing pandemic, sent his well wishes to the athletes on Thursday in a 'Welcoming Team SA to Japan' at the South African embassy residence in Tokyo.

He urged the team to compete fiercely but reiterated that there's no pressure on athletes at this year's rescheduled Games.

"We send you our best wishes from the President and his entire government of South Africa and the population of Mzansi," said Mthethwa at the virtual press conference on Thursday.

"With regards to the task at hand, we wish you a happy, safe and successful mission at the Games. As you know, South Africans are very competitive and have high expectations. However, we don't want to put too much pressure on the athletes.

"And we are all familiar with the quote, 'It is sometimes better to have a happy participant than an unhappy champion'. 

"Compete fiercely as you perform at your best, we will be watching all the events and channelling our support while we look forward to your safe return home."

South Africa will have a squad of just over 180 athletes, making it the largest contingent the country has ever sent to the Olympics - beating out Rio's 137 athletes sent.

Sascoc president Barry Hendricks says that this Olympics is the stepping stone for several young athletes for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"We need to use what our past leader Nelson Mandela has encouraged us to do and that is to use sport as a vehicle for change and to bring our youth and nation together," said Hendricks.

"The Olympics is a platform to showcase our talent but more than that, it's to bring sport together and former medallists together like Chad le Clos and Wayde van Niekerk.

"Bringing them together with new and future champions in South Africa that will use this Olympics as a stepping stone to Paris."

At the 2016 Games, Mbalula announced incentives for South Africa's medal winners. However, this year, no indication was made over whether our future medallists will get rewarded following the Tokyo Olympics.

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Sport24.

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