Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


Tokyo Olympics: Five things that went wrong for Team SA

Injuries to key athletes affected the squad's medal hopes in multiple sports.


It wasn’t all bad, with the SA team bagging three medals to finish 52nd in the final table at the Tokyo Olympic Games, which came to a close on Sunday.

There were a lot of things that went wrong, however, as the national squad fell short in their podium charge after securing 10 medals at the 2016 Rio Games.

Here’s five things that just didn’t go right in Tokyo.

Injury troubles

While injuries will always be an issue in top-flight sport, the SA team’s niggles gave their medal chances a serious knock.

Before the Games even started, surfer Jordy Smith and cyclist Daryl Impey were forced to withdraw.

During the showpiece, Henri Schoeman was unable to finish the men’s triathlon, and his injured ankle ended the hopes of the mixed relay team, while Gift Leotlela hurt his hamstring in the 100m semifinals, and his absence was felt when the men’s 4x100m relay quartet crashed out in the heats.

ALSO READ: Tokyo memories – Five highlights for Team SA at Olympic Games

Chad’s battle

It may seem a little unfair to include Chad le Clos on this list because he produced one of the best results of the national team, but by his own standards, the Tokyo Games were no good.

After sneaking into the semifinals, Le Clos did well to reach the 200m butterfly final, but he settled for fifth place in his best event.

The four-time Olympic medallist went on to crash out in the heats of the 100m butterfly, failing to add to his career haul, though he remained confident he could bounce back at the 2024 Paris Games.

Chad le Clos Olympics
Competing at his third Olympics, Chad le Clos missed out on the podium for the first time. Picture: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

Athletics drought

The track and field team had been confident of returning home with a few medals in the bag, but they did not deliver.

There were some impressive results from individual athletes but their overall performance will probably best be forgotten.

It was the first time since readmission in 1992 that the national athletics team failed to reach the podium at the quadrennial Games.

Wayde’s return

Just having him back on the track last year was a relief, but there was too much expectation placed on 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk.

Despite a shortage of races in the build-up, Van Niekerk’s past form and his self-confidence saw him being punted as a medal contender.

We got our hopes up and it was our own fault. The reality is that the former world champion is going to need more time before we know if he can get back to his best.

ALSO READ: USA top medals table as Tokyo Olympics draw to a close

Rowing squad

Having secured three medals at the last four editions of the Olympics, the national rowing team just didn’t come to the party.

The men’s four boat struggled to put up a fight, even in the B final, and the men’s pair couldn’t get through their repechage.

Their absence from the medals table was significant in term’s of the SA squad’s overall hopes.

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