South Africa’s poor showing in some codes, and the country’s absence from major events on the international circuit, is a damning reflection of our lack of depth and cause for real concern in the build-up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
While the nation has top athletes in multiple Olympic codes who are able to compete at the highest level, they are few and far between, and it makes the SA team extremely vulnerable in the build-up to the multi-sport Games.
With Kevin Anderson having recently retired, and Lloyd Harris absent due to injury, there are no SA players in the main singles draw at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009.
Similarly, with Chad le Clos past his best and Tatjana Schoenmaker skipping the showpiece in order to focus on the Commonwealth Games, Lara van Niekerk grabbed the national team’s only medal in the pool at the Fina World Championships last week (the SA squad’s worst result at the biennial spectacle since 2003).
And with Wayde van Niekerk struggling to bounce back from injury, and Caster Semenya still sidelined from middle-distance events, a lack of depth has also been exposed in track and field.
Akani Simbine will be hoping to target a medal at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene next month, along with a few other individuals who have outside chances, but with the SA 4x100m relay team seemingly failing to qualify (the final entries have not yet been confirmed) the squad could be facing an uphill battle.
Of course, if the likes of Schoenmaker, Harris and Simbine are able to perform at their best – as well as some other rising stars like Lara van Niekerk – the Paris Games could see an improvement in terms of results after South Africa returned home with just three medals from last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
But it is clear that a few injuries will be enough to derail our chances completely, and there needs to be more depth to ensure the SA squad can compete for medals against the best in the world.
Though we can retain a positive attitude, it’s important to be realistic. The quality we have is top drawer, but we need quantity too.