Athletics is a sport that thrives on being in the news in South Africa. If it’s not for the good of Mbuleni Mulaudzi, Khotso Mokoena and LJ van Zyl, it’s for the pure ridiculousness of the governing bodies handling of the Caster Semenya issue, Leonard Cheune and his cronies being the laughing stock of world sport, and even being suspended by SASCOC in 2009. But putting aside the love for being in the headlines, Athletics has been the South African Olympic team’s shining light since readmission. It is the only sporting code to have achieved medals at each of the Olympic Games since 1992, with Elana Meyer’s silver in 92, Josiah Thugwane’s gold and Hezekiel Sepeng’s silver in 96, Hestrie Cloete’s Silver, Llewelyn Herbert and Frans Kruger’s Bronzes in ’00, Cloete’s silver again with Mulaudzi’s silver in ’04 and of course South Africa’s lone medal in 2008, Khotso Mokoena’s silver. That takes the medal count to 1 gold, 6 silver and 2 bronze since readmission.
Of course Athletics SA has seen a revamp with hard man James Evans as the president and Frik Vermaak as the CEO and the Yellow Pages series has seen a general all-round improvement in the South African Athletics quality. The Yellow Pages series has seen the emergence of South African super athletes and given them the opportunity to really experience quality competition on our own soil. As a result a reasonably strong team has been sent to London for the 2012 Games.
The team being sent is as follows:
Track and Field
Willie de Beer
Shaun de Jager
LJ van Zyl
And although many of the Athletes fit into a category that we could merely describe as hopeful, there is a real sense of medal belief that surround Caster Semenya, Sunette Viljoen, Khotso Mokoena and the 4 x 400 m relay. There really is a chance that we could return from London with the most successful medal tally of South African Olympic history. I also think the inclusion of Oscar Pistorious is fantastic as he will demand a lot of attention from the media and maybe, just maybe that will allow the rest of the team to focus more on the challenge ahead.
We also know, thanks to Josiah Thugwane in 1996, that marathon events are often down to the way you feel on the day. So it is with eager anticipation that we will watch our marathon runners as well as Marc Mundell in the race walking with eager anticipation.
No matter what happens at the Olympics, you can’t help but feel that should South Africa want to get close to the ridiculous target of 12 in ’12, the Athletics guys are going to have to make up a large amount of that number!