/ 8 August 2008

SA’s Olympic medal hopefuls

Lucky Sindane assesses which South Africans have the potential to bring medals home

Athletics: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Khotso Mokoena, LJ van Zyl and Justine Robbeson
The team will be hoping to make up for a disappointing performance last year at the championships in Osaka, where they failed to win a single medal.

Khotso Mokoena was the best of the bunch when he claimed fifth place with a distance of 8,19m. He reached the final with the best jump of the qualifiers, 8,28m.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) development manager Molatelo Malehopo said the federation is not settling for less than four medals.

”We have learned a lot from the Osaka championships and so have our athletes. We have done everything we could as a federation in terms of our preparations for the Olympics,” said Malehopo.

He added: ”Mulaudzi is the 2004 Athens Olympics 800m silver medalist and is currently ranked number three in the world with a season’s best of 1:43,61. Mokoena is the 2008 International Association Athletics Federations World Indoor long-jump champion and is currently ranked number 10 in the world.

”LJ van Zyl moved into the world number-three spot with a time of 48,22 in the 400m hurdles in Greece last month, and Robbeson is ranked fourth in the world after her throw of 63,96 earlier this year. We have no reason to doubt that they will win medals at the games.”

Cycling (BMX): Sifiso Nhlapo
Sifiso Nhlapo (20) booked his spot to the Olympics at the beginning of June when he finished third in the elite men’s race at the 2008 BMX World Championships in Taiyuan in China.

Carinus Lemmer, the chief operations officer for Cycling South Africa, said there’s no doubt that Nhlapo will win a medal.

”I know this might come as a surprise to many as they expected that [cyclist] Robbie Hunter would be our medal hopeful. It is tough out there and I don’t see him winning a medal. Nhlapo is definitely going to bring us a medal.

”He has proven over the years that he can perform on the world stage. He has always been on top of his game, having won quite a number in South African championships.

”He is a young and very dedicated cyclist. Having achieved what he has at the age of 20, I have no doubt that we are still going to see more of him over the coming years.”

Boxing: Jackson Chauke
No South African has won a medal in boxing since re-admission in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But former boxing national coach Andile Mofu believes that the Olympics medal drought will come to an end in Beijing when South Africa’s lone boxer takes to the ring.

He said: ”Looking at him fight in previous tournaments we are confident that he will represent us well as he has the potential. He is a very good fighter who doesn’t give up that easy and as a boxer you need that to succeed.”

Chauke, who weighs 51kg, won silver medals in the flyweight category at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and at the 2007 All Africa Games.

”Though boxers from Cuba dominate the flyweight divisions he will come out tops. The Olympics are different and he will come up against good boxers but he will stand his ground and make history,” said Mofu.

Simphiwe Mtshali, a professional boxing promoter from Gabs Boxing Promotions, said Chauke has the potential and will win a medal.

”The guy is a very good fighter and no one did him a favour when he was selected as the only boxer at the Olympics. The only problem for him might be the fact that he will be alone with no teammates.

”All he has to do is just focus on his fights and it is possible since he is alone. The Olympics will be a big stage for him but he will not disappoint,” said Mtshali.