SA swimmer, sailor make the grade

Roland Schoeman, riding the medal wave at the Athens Olympics, continued to make a strong impact on swimming competition at the Aquatic Centre on Thursday night.

Schoeman, on fire with an Olympic gold from the 100m freestyle relay and silver from the 100m freestyle, surged into Friday night’s final with the fastest semifinal time of 21,99 seconds.

Australia’s Brett Hawke did not even come close at second in 22,07 seconds and neither did the United States’s Jason Lezak in winning his semifinal in 22,12 seconds.

“We’re not finished here yet,” said Schoeman after he spearheaded the relay team to victory against the US on Sunday night. The way the Tucson University-based swimmer is surging through the water at the Olympics, he is in contention for another gold that would equal the double gold won by Penny Heyns in Atlanta in 1996.

“The 50m is all about quick reaction and explosive energy,” Schoeman said shortly after arriving in Athens. On Wednesday night, he demonstrated what that meant with his 0,65-second reaction time off the blocks.
Hawke pounced at 0,69 and Lezak, the strongest finisher among Schoeman’s rivals, at 0,72.

Lyndon Ferns, who raced to gold with Schoeman in the relay, finished out of final contention with 22,52 seconds that gave him seventh spot.

Schoeman is focused on the 50m final and did his customary walk through the media area with no comment until after his medal campaign.

He impressed earlier on Thursday with a little more than 12 hours to recover from his silver medal to blast from the blocks with the fastest reaction time off the mark, but slacked off to third behind the US’s Gary Hall and Algeria’s Salim Iles. Hall topped the heats with 22,04 seconds but was left for third in the semis in 22,18.

Hall came to the Olympics as the top-ranked 50m exponent of the season with a 21,91 from the American trials. Schoeman came to Athens ranked second with his 21,98 from the nationals in Durban, a time he shared with Jason Lezak.

Eugene Botes debuted in the Olympics on Thursday morning, but the US-based swimmer failed to make the cut in the 100m butterfly. After turning in fifth position, Botes dropped to seventh in 54,15 seconds for a 30th ranking from the heats.

“It’s not my best time, so I’m disappointed,” said Botes, whose next outing will the 4x100m medley. “We will give it our best shot, but will do well to get into the last eight.”

Hockey loss

The South African hockey men lost the third pool match against The Netherlands 3-2 after leading 2-1 at half-time.

Goals by Steven Evans in the 16th minute and Ian Symons from a penalty corner put South Africa 2-0 up after 22 minutes. Two minutes later, The Netherlands’ Jan-Geert Derikx scored off a penalty corner to start the comeback, which continued unanswered in the second half.

“We are disappointed. A few things went against us. We played well for 60 to 65 minutes [but] couldn’t manage to score a goal in the last minutes of the match. Yet we should keep our heads high for the next game. I’m proud of our performance,” said captain Craig Jackson.

After three matches, the South Africans are lying fourth in the pool headed by The Netherlands. The team have their final pool match against Australia on Saturday.

Australia beat India 4-3 in the final seconds to put South Africa all about out of the medals reckoning.

South Africa sorely needed an Indian victory bolstered by a win against the Aussies on Saturday to keep their hopes alive.

Brave volleyball challenge

South African women beach volleyball players Leigh Ann Naidoo and Julia Willand played above themselves to go down 2-0 against Italy’s Lucila Perrott and Daniela Gattelli.

The pair excelled to challenge their higher-ranked opponents to 21-18 in a 26-minute battle in the first set, but by the second set, the Italians had got their measure and had their opponents’ backs against the wall with a 21-14 win.

“We made too many errors in that final set,” said Willand after their exit from the Olympics following earlier brave losses against Brazil and Cuba.

“But overall, I’m very happy and content with the way everything went. I can’t grasp the fact that it’s all over for us now.

“The entire experience was full of challenges and fun and personal growth and wonderful experiences. It’s been absolutely amazing.”

Sailor moves up

South Africa’s Olympic sailor, Gareth Blanckenberg, moved up from overall 25th in the Laser class to 16th when he finished a superb sixth at the Sailing Centre on the shores of Hellenico on Thursday.

“This was my best day of sailing,” said Blanckenberg after a late burst in which he came from one minute and 13 seconds down on Vasilij Zbogar to 58 seconds at the end. “The conditions were really good for me.”

With three races to go, Blanckenberg will be hoping for similar conditions to move up the ladder topped by Robert Scheidt of Brazil.—Sapa

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