Sport

SA Olympic team unveiled

Sapa

South Africa's countdown to the London Olympic Games has begun in earnest with Sascoc announcing a 112-member provisional team.

Gert Oosthuizen, Gideon Sam and Tubby Reddy pose with members SA's Olympics team during the Sascoc team announcement. (Gallo)

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee said athletes who had not yet been included in the team would have until the end of June to add their names to the final list for the Olympic squad.

“I’ve always said that the building of a team is like doing a jigsaw puzzle,” said Sascoc president Gideon Sam.

“So today we are putting just about the final pieces of that puzzle into place with only a few more additions likely after the final qualification cut-off.”

Sam said the team would have been larger if the Olympic governing body was able to provide better financial support.

“Make no bones about it, we could have done better if we had more funding, but that’s always the case,” he said.

“The time for excuses is over and I believe that we have done the very best that we could have done under the circumstances.”

Swimmers formed the largest contingent of the individual sports named in the preliminary team.

Among the 16 swimmers are World Championships bronze medallist Cameron van der Burgh, rising star Chad le Clos and multiple Olympic medallist Roland Schoeman.

Qualifying standards
Only four are women, with Karin Prinsloo, Kathryn Meaklim, Suzaan van Biljon and Wendy Trott getting the nod.

South Africa will be represented in the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments after both teams reached Sascoc’s stringent qualifying standards.

The men’s side won their qualifying tournament in Japan last month while the women ensured their Olympic participation in India in February.

Banyana Banyana will make their debut at the Games after they qualified last year when they drew 1-1 against Ethiopia for a 4-1 aggregate victory in a two-leg tie.

While a number of track and field athletes were still sweating to obtain Olympic qualification, 400m hurdlers Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl, world 800m bronze medallist Caster Semenya and javelin throw record holder Sunette Viljoen have already been named in the team.

Of the four athletes, only Viljoen and Van Zyl have participated at previous Olympic Games.

Viljoen will compete in her third Games, having finished 17th in Beijing four years ago, while Van Zyl ended a credible fifth place at his first Games in 2008.

National 50km race walking record holder Marc Mundell will also be participating in his maiden Olympics.

Toeing the line
The men’s marathon trio will consist of Lusapho April, Stephen Mokoka and Coolboy Ngamole, while Rene Kalmer, Tanith Maxwell and Irvette van Blerk will toe the line in the women’s race.

Siphiwe Lusizi, in the 69kg weight class, and Ayabonga Sonjica, in the 56kg class, are the only boxers in the provisional list.

Canoeist Bridgette Hartley will hope to improve on her previous Games performance in the K1 500m while Tiffany Kruger will by flying the South African flag in the K1 200m event.

Hartley progressed to the semi-finals in the K2 500m at the 2008 Beijing Games and her form in recent years suggests she could be a medal contender.

Among the cyclists in the team, mountainbiker Burry Stander stands out as another of South Africa’s medal contenders. Stander finished 15th in the cross country race in Beijing.

Despite a spate of serious injuries over the last four years, Olympic BMX finalist Sifiso Nhlapo recently qualified for the global showpiece and was named in the preliminary team. Nhlapo crashed out in the final in Beijing.

“When I look at this team I am filled with pride and hope,” Sam said.

“This is a very good team and I have no doubt that there is lots of medal potential.” – Sapa

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