Team SA getting closer at Youth Olympics | TeamSA - TeamSA

Team SA getting closer at Youth Olympics

By Mark Etheridge
in Nanjing, China

Things have started looking up for Team South Africa at the Youth Olympic Games here on Tuesday.

Our sole judo player, Unelle Snyman had a realistic chance at a medal before finishing fourth, our swim team also secured a fourth place in the pool and our men’s hockey side came back from the death to secure an epic victory. And there were also fourth spots by both our cyclists in the BMX final.

Snyman won her quarter-final fight in the -78kg division before going down in the semi-final. She then went on to meet Spain’s Sarah Rodrigues in the evening fight for bronze.

In a scrappy fight she lost by virtue of picking up one more shido (penalty) than her opponent and that was the medal chance gone.

‘She’s a very good fighter,’ said Snyman after her defeat. ‘She was also much shorter than me which always makes it tough but on the plus side I have got some valuable extra experience on the mat here for future competitions.

‘It was a good fight,’ said coach Mark Desfountain. ‘Tactics were a bit negative with lots of counter-gripping but I think if there’d been another good attack there would have been another shido and it would have been all square.’

Judo is certainly part and parcel of the Snyman family. Her older brother Ruan-Tobie, was a silver medallist at the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

In the pool, Josh Steyn secured SA’s best position so far, missing the podium by one spot as he ended fourth. He clocked 53.63sec in the 100m butterfly final. That was 0.69sec behind winner Zhuaho of China and 0.45sec off the podium.

In the girls’ 100m breaststroke semi-final, Justine Macfarlane ended seventh with a 1:10.55 finish as Lithuanian ace Ruta Meliutyte cruised to victory in 1:07.83.

In another semi-final, Christopher Reid brought up the field in the 50m backstroke, with a time of 26.75 as Russia’s Evgeny Rylov won in 25.42.

The 4x100m freestyle relay final saw South Africa ending eighth in 3:28.86, +7.67 behind winners Great Britain.

Out at the impressive Olympic Sports Park, a venue that would have sports administrators the world over open-eyed at its sheer scale of facilities, cyclists Maia Rawlins and Alex Limberg both got fourth spot in the BMX event.

Rawlins was clocked at 37.351sec in the final, +2.713sec behind winner Domenica Azuero Gonzalaz of Ecuador.

Limberg was even closer to the podium. Twelfth in the road race time trial on the previous day, he was clocked at 31.772, +2.014 behind Netherlands winner Niek Kimmann.

They say the five-a-side version of hockey is an all-action lottery affair. Well, the South African boys’ side now know all about that after their Pool A match against Australia.

Five goals down and into the second of three periods, it looked down and out for South Africa as the boys from Down Under ran riot. But a goal from Luke Schooling gave the SA side hope and the Aussies never scored again as further goals from Tevin Kok (2) and Ryan Crowe (2) pulled them level before Schooling sealed a memorable win with less than three minutes on the clock.

‘Yes, it was pretty special,’ said men’s coach Neville Rothman. ‘We let ourselves down to be 5-0 down but when we got one back things started changing.

‘It was more a case of us making soft errors than them creating chances. We just had to take our own chances and make those final passes.

‘Once we got to 5-3 the whole momentum of the match changed… it was crazy.’

Next up for South Africa are Bangladesh. ‘It’ll be great if we can beat them because then we’ve got a spot in the quarter-final,’ said Stellenbosch based Rothman. ‘It’s Bangladesh’s last game so they might be a bit tired and with not too much left to play for.’

Girls’ action saw South Africa beat Fiji for their first win at the Games. After going down to Japan and Argentina they put eight past the Pacific Islanders, conceding just two. Demi Harmse, Marizen Marais and Kristen Paton all got a brace apiece and there were also goals from Cheneal Raubenheimer and Chrissie Haupt.

Elsewhere, the only equestrian representative in the squad, Alexa Stais, was in action for the first time. The Grade 12 Kyalami rider was part of the African continental team that ended fourth out of six teams on the first day of jumping.

‘There are 30 horses with five reserves and they were allocated in a random draw on Thursday, said manager/coach Lorette Knowles-Taylor.

‘Alexa’s horse is named Dominand, a Belgian-bred 11-year-old chestnut.

‘When we got him he was a little stiff behind the saddle but he’s had an injection and some physiotherapy and I think he’ll go from strength to strength as the competition goes on.’

The team’s tennis run came to an end when Cape Town’s Lloyd Harris went out to Poland’s Kamil Mjchrzak of Poland in straight sets, 6-2 6-0. Harris now heads to New York for the Junior US Open.

The team’s two golfers were in first day action at the Zhongshan Int. Golf Club. African Youth Games champion Kyle McClatchie shot a first round 81 to lie 15 shots off the pace as Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult lead with a round of 66.

In the girls’ first round, Kaleigh Telfer shot an 82, 13 off the pace as a quartet of Italy, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Japan topped the leaderboard on 69.

Sailing saw Cape Town’s Calvin Gibbs ending 15th and 23rd in races three and four of the One-person Dinghy events and Mossel Bay’s Megan Robertson finished 30th in both her races.

Pictures by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA. Pictures of Team South Africa’s campaign at the 2014 Youth Olympics are free for downloading on