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Athletes celebrate inclusion in Team SA for Gold Coast

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South Africa’s sportsmen and women reacted with excitement on the news of their inclusion in Team South Africa for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia later this year.

Team SA’s Mark Etheridge tracked down a cross-section of athletes for their thoughts ahead of the 4-15 April global spectacle.

JONATHAN NTUTU (Para-athletics)
‘I’m really happy at making my first Commonwealth Games. It’s truly a blessing from above. I’m thankful to my family for being my strength and pillar, to coach Paul Gorries and the training group – the work never stops. To SASCOC, the support is overwhelming and unwavering. Thank you for showing the faith in me. I hope to make them and the country proud at the 2018 Games.’

JULIA VINCENT (Diving)
‘I’m really excited, I love being able to travel with the other girls and this will be the first Commonwealth Games for all of us, so I think it’s a big deal. I’m hoping to take the confidence I gained from my performance at World’s last year and let it transfer over to the next few months of training and competition that I have leading up to Commonwealth Games.’

MONA PRETORIUS (weightlifting)
‘I’m so happy and proud to have made the team for the fourth time after 2006, 2010 and 2014. I finished fifth in my first games in Melbourne back in 2006. I’ve been prepping hard for this and representing South Africa on the international stage is a big honour and also being able to do what I love So blessed to be a part of it. Being based in Fort Worth, Texas with my coach Dutch Lowy has been a big help. Training has got off to a great start this year and I’m excited to wear the green and gold.The month before the Games I will be prepping in South Africa with the guidance of Dutch and my dad, and fellow coach, Pieter.

LJ VAN ZYL (Athletics)
‘This is another huge privilege… my fourth Commonwealth Games. I didn’t make the team for World Champs last year in London which was a bad feeling but now I’ve got extra motivation and new hope to train hard. I’ve twice won medals – in 2010 I got silver in the 400m hurdles and in 2006 I got gold in the hurdles and and silver in the relay. This year my aim is to keep on the tradition. It’s good to see newbies in the shape of Constant Pretorius, Phil-Mar Van Rensburg and Breyton Poole – all very exciting prospects. I just get gooseflesh thinking about it. It’s also great to see swimmers Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh back at the Games. We’ll miss Wayde [Van Niekerk, injured] but Caster Semenya and other big names are there. It’s also a privilege for me to play the role of “senior” in the athletics squad and to help mentor the rest of the team and make the rookies feel at ease.’

RICARDO FITZPATRICK (Para-Powerlifting)
‘It’s truly a great honour to represent South Africa at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  These are my second Commonwealth Games that I’m going to – I also competed in Melbourne back in 2006. Last year started well for me when I got a world ranking of sixth and won bronze at the 2017 Arnold Classic and gold at the 2017 Commonwealth Powerlifting & Bench Press Championships. But when I competed in Mexico City at the World Para Powerlifting World Championships I wasn’t my the greatest form. Now, 2018 is a new start for me. I’m putting in much more effort and intense training to be in my best form for Gold Coast, Australia. I’m looking at growing in my sport and become more consistent at the Games.

CHARLENE DU PREEZ (Cycling)
‘I’m totally stoked! So grateful for this opportunity. Can’t quite explain the feeling in my heart, just so many things that came together and worked out at the right time. With my main goal being the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, this selection for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is a definite step closer to reality of reaching my goal. Being selected is one thing… the hard work is far from over. I’m truly happy to finally get the feeling that the time, effort and sacrifices is showing to be worth it. My individual sponsor, Clover, is the main reason I can pursue this dream and then the other big factor is Jaco, my husband, walking this journey which can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster ride, with me. Thank you to everyone believing in us and in me. I will go out in full force and I hope we can make our supporters happy, I believe we can.’

BREYTON POOLE (Athletics)
I was shocked when I heard but I am definitely very excited about being included in the Final team it’s always a honour to Represent our country. The goal is just to gain some valuable experience so getting a medal would just be a bonus for me.

GERRY BAKER (Bowls)
‘Once again I’m super excited to be going to these, my sixth Commonwealth Games! I seem to get the same butterflies of anticipation and excitement as if it was my first selection. My form is good at the moment and next week we participate in the SA Masters Singles event in Pretoria followed by the Inter Provincials in George so we’ll be hitting our straps by the time we leave for the Gold Coast. The team is a solid one and has been finalised from an initial squad of 10 that has been together for the past two years. I skip the fours and the triples and as in the past we are hoping for our fair share of success and in fact punch above our weight when it comes to the medal count. Between us we have a combination of seasoned medal winners and great first timers so the good old-fashioned blend of youth and experience is present. The home ground advantage for the Aussies is going to be massive and barring them there are no other clear favourites. However, we always back ourselves and with a little luck in the draw early on I still think that we will give a good account of ourselves.’

CANDICE MANUEL (Hockey)
‘I’m over the moon about being part of Team SA. It’s such an honour to be a part of the team competing at the Commonwealth Games. It will be my first Commonwealth and that’s exciting. I never take anything for granted, and it’s even more rewarding when you know you work so hard at it. I’ve never been to Australia as well, so another first. Definitely a few people that have supported my consistently throughout my journey are my parents, my club – Constantiaberg Hockey Club, coach Ryan Pillay, friends and WP Hockey Union who have all have been phenomenal in my development as a player, as well as TK hockey my sponsor.’

NOLAN HOFFMAN (Cycling)
‘It’s a great honour for me to make Team SA for the CWG again. It has been a big focus for me to make the team for the past twoyears. I think the 15km Scratch race is an event where I can do really well in and so that will be a big focus for me. So now I’m really working hard to be at my very best for the Games.’

PHIL-MAR VAN RENSBURG (Athletics)
‘Man, after all the grind and sacrifices over the years it’s a huge privilege to be part of this. It makes all the hard work worthwhile. When I talk sacrifices I mean all the hard training sessions when one gets home from a day at work, and weekend training etc. I wasn’t sure how my javelin career would turn out after my elbow operation in August last year but it just feels great to be part of the team after everything I’ve put in over the last few years.’

SIMONE ACKERMANN (Triathlon)
I’m very proud to be representing South Africa at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. We have a very strong team, and a chance to achieve something special there. I feel very privileged to be a part of it.’

Picture of sprinter Akani Simbine and Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi at Tuesday’s team announcement courtesy of Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images

 


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