By Mark Etheridge
South Africa leave Maputo on Monday as kings of the continent and on top of the medals table after 15 days of battle at the 10th All Africa Games in Mozambique.
They hit the ground running with four medals in the triathlon on day one of the competition on Sunday 4 September and ended it with medals in tennis, judo and soccer on the final day.
That saw them amass a total of 157 medals, broken down into 62 gold, 55 silver and 40 bronze. Clearly this team dealt in gold first and foremost, not colours of a lesser hue.
Compare that to the last Games in Algiers, Algeria where we ended third behind Algeria and Egypt and it’s a rosy picture going forward.
The SA medal tally in Algeria may have been more, 180 of which 61 where gold) but there were more sports and medals on offer on that occasion.
In Maputo there was only going to be one winner as the Games unfolded and second-placed Nigeria (98 medals ÔÇô 31 gold) were light years behind South Africa.
The fine showing means that SA top the medals table for the first time since we hosted the games in 1999 and the team truly stood up to be counted, answering SASCOC President Gideon Sam’s call for them to return as champions.
The encouraging news is also that they won medals across the spectrum. Despite the bulk coming from aquatics (73) and athletics it was only in basketball, women’s soccer, netball, volleyball (although beach volleyball medalled) and table tennis that we came back empty-handed. This from a Games where we 18 different events with medal opportunities.
And even then it wasn’t exactly empty handed as the experience gained from international travel and competition cannot be judged merely in terms of medals.
Typically though, Sam is already looking past these Games and on to bigger things though. “We did very well and we set out to do be the best as we are the economic powerhouse on the continent and should therefore be first in Africa,” Sam said.
“We are after all a nation of winners. The 2011 All Africa Games are now history and we achieved our goal.┬áThe Youth Commonwealth Games are over and we achieved our goal by improving to third place on the medals table┬á Let us now set our aims at achieving our goals in London at the 2012 Olympic Games.”