Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
22 Aug 2016
10:06 pm

Olympic highs and lows for team SA

Wesley Botton

Here are some of the ups and downs experienced at the showpiece:

Olympic gold medalists Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya. Gallo Images.

The SA team produced a superb all-round performance to bring home 10 medals from the Rio Olympics, equalling the biggest haul achieved by the nation at the quadrennial Games.

Among all the high points, however, there were a number of lows as well.


Wayde van Niekerk – After struggling with a hamstring niggle in the preliminary rounds, Van Niekerk slammed down the hammer in the men’s 400m final, charging to victory and setting a new world record of 43.03 seconds. He clipped 0.15 off the previous global mark held by American legend Michael Johnson

Caster Semenya – Brushing off a gender controversy which continued to rage in the background, Semenya coasted to a convincing win in the women’s 800m final to become the first black South African woman to bag an Olympic title. In the process, she set a new national record of 1:55.28

Luvo Manyonga – The resurgent long jumper bounced back from recreational drug addiction to earn the silver medal in his specialist event. With compatriot Ruswahl Samaai unable to reach the podium, after entering the competition as one of the favourites, Manyonga stole the show

Lawrence Brittain – Having won a battle against cancer early last year, Brittain partnered with Shaun Keeling as the duo carried the national rowing team to their only medal, surging to second place in the men’s pair final. Brittain and Keeling were among the most ecstatic medallists in the SA team, getting a few laughs out of the media in the mixed zone with their infectious energy as they celebrated a personal triumph

Henri Schoeman – With countryman Richard Murray lining up among the medal favourites, Schoeman was not given much of a chance by pundits before the men’s triathlon contest. Stunning most of the field, he produced the race of his life to take bronze, holding off a late charge from Murray who finished fourth

Low points

SA rowing team – Having done well to earn five places in A-finals, the rowing squad were expected to push South Africa up the medals table with a few podium places. While Brittain and Keeling did not disappoint, however, the other four crews all missed out on a disappointing day at the regatta

Chad le Clos – No, we haven’t put Le Clos in the wrong column. He earned two silver medals, becoming the country’s most decorated Olympian, but after his heroics at the 2012 London Games he was expected to produce so much more. By failing to reach the podium in his favoured 200m butterfly event, and for ‘poking the bear’ before racing Michael Phelps, he gets a rare wag of the finger from us. We hope he has learned his lesson and comes back stronger

Team kit – Sascoc were celebrating the team’s 10-medal haul after they had put a double-figure target in place, but they took a lot of flak for the tracksuits which the team were forced to wear. Far too big, with two athletes able to fit in some of them, the likes of Le Clos looked a bit like green clowns when receiving their medals

Local Organising Committee – Though they were never expected to put up the spectacular show offered at the London Games four years ago, the organisers did flop a few things at Olympic Park. The toilets were so small, anyone weighing more than 70kg would have battled to squeeze themselves in, and their insistence on having the aircons blasting freezing winds through work stations and press centres left many disgruntled

No Simbine – Sprinter Anaso Jobodwana took the blame for Akani Simbine’s absence from the 200m event, but it should rather have been directed towards Athletics SA. Despite his fine form this season, Simbine was not selected for the 200m event, with ASA instead picking two teenagers ahead of a potential finalist. As it turns out, Simbine (who was fifth in the 100m dash) could well have bagged a medal in a relatively slow 200m final, had he been deemed good enough to be entered in the first place