By Mark Etheridge
In Brazzaville, Congo
Four more silver medals came South Africa’s way as the African Games started to wind down here on Wednesday… two came the way of athletics and two in wrestling.
First 42-year-old veteran Chris Harmse hurled the hammer 73.49 metres as he was only bettered by Egypt’s M El Gamal’s 74.92. And then fellow field athlete Ischke Senekal took silver in the women’s discus with a throw of 50.53m.
The grappling brigade brought two more silvers to the team cause through Jan Combrinck (59kg) and Andries Schutte (130kg), both in the Greco-Roman division.
Those four medals took Team SA’s total tally to 113 medals with two days of competition left to run.
Harmse was satisfied with silver but it’s all part of a long term plan. ‘It’s all about getting to the Rio Olympics next year,’ he said while watching the women’s discus. ‘I’ve been bothered by my left knee all year so I’m not 100% right but this is about what I expected.
‘This throw would still have been good enough for silver at Commonwealth Games last year.’ The Sasolburg giant has a best of 80.63 set 10 years ago and this season his best is a 74.00 effort at Potchefstroom.
Harmse and the African Games go back a long way. These are his fifth Games and he now has three gold and two silver medals to show for a sustained show of strength.
As for Senekal, the Port Elizabeth athlete was just as pleased. ‘Yes, it went well Although I wanted to throw near my personal best of 52.54 I’ll take this for sure.
‘It’s my first African Games medal so that’s pretty cool,’ said the 22-year-old who is in her third year of an education diploma at Nelson Mandela Metropole University.
Her discus counterpart, Sonia Smuts, a medallist at the last Games in Mozambique four years ago, had a best of 44.51 to finish out of the medals.
For the rest there wasn’t too much to show from the SA athletes although the organisation of track and field continued to be shambolic at best with events being rescheduled, held over etc for most of the day.
Finalist in the 100m, Roscoe Engel, took third in the 200m semi-finals with a 20.99, not enough to go through to the final.
Anneri Ebersohn was fourth in the 400m hurdles heats in 1min 01.02sec and in the heptathlon, Nienka du Toit was advised to withdraw with two events to go as she tweaked a hamstring. Should she have continued she was at risk of being sidelined for at least six weeks.
The long jump had two SA entrants with Lynique Prinsloo ending sixth with a 6.13m best of the night and Zinzi Chabangu eighth with 6.08.
No medals came South Africa’s way on Wednesday as organisational issues once again bedevilled progress.
London Paralympian Annika Pretorius is still to race her T11 race. ‘I was first supposed to run heats and semis but then it was made into a final. The final was supposed to be today but it’s once again been held over.
‘Tomorrow [Thursday] I’m supposed to race the 400m so I’m not sure what’s going to happen now. But I’m prepared for both and just hope the 100 is first,’ said a frustrated Pretorius.
Heugene Murray took fourth in the F42 javelin after his bronze in the shot put on Tuesday.
And then poor Gerrit Hendricks must be the unluckiest man in the team so far. On Tuesday he had a flat in the T45 400m while handily placed. On Wednesday, organisers saw fit to fit in 13 finalists in the 800m and he was involved in a crash on the final bend and once again failed to finish!
But there was good news for 21-year-old Danie Breitenbach in the T11 400m heats as he ended second in a time of 56.09.
‘It’s a big personal best for me, as my previous was a 56.98 that I ran in May this year in Potchefstroom,’ said the Bloemfontein athlete. ‘I’ve been feeling a bit unwell because of the air-conditioning but lets hope I can take things further in the final.’
Another bad luck story came in the F57 shot put where Michael Louwrens was disqualified for ‘lifting’, as in leaving his support chair.
Louwrens is a veteran of five Paralympics and four All Africa Games and was left almost speechless. ‘I’ve never been red-flagged for lifting in all my career and this time I was suddenly told by an official behind me that I was out!
‘I’m not angry at all… just frustrated because these officials just weren’t properly briefed on the technical issues. I will just focus on trying to get to Rio from now onwards.’
Chantell Stierman placed fourth in her 61-kilogram division out at the Ornano venue.
The little Kimberley powerhouse took on three competitors in her division as well as a 65kg opponent lumped into the same event.
She comfortably hoisted her first lift to 75kg and the second was also easily accomplished at 80kg.
But she failed to complete the 85kg lift which saw her fall by the wayside.
‘I had a few problems today in that the guy who helps as we got into position under the bar lifted both me and the bar and then put me down again. It was fine for the first two lifts but the last weight was too heavy and I couldn’t get my posture quite right for the hoist. No excuses but it’s the little things that matter.
‘Also, this is my first competition since Commonwealth Games. I just can’t afford to travel to competitions to get more experience. I even missed SA Championships earlier this year because I don’t work so can’t afford to travel. I lift more than this in training but just need the exposure.’
Manager/coach Anita Barnard, herself a bronze medallist in the masters division back in 2008 said: ‘She wanted to go for the safer option at 82.5km but for the rankings sake I wanted to push her a bit.
‘I still think she should have got a bronze according to the rules and will take it further tomorrow.’
The Revolution Hall saw the women’s doubles in action and the more established combination of Zodwa Maphanga and Khanyisile Madlala progressing to the quarter-finals.
They beat Algeria 3-2 to advance. The first round saw the other combo of young Caitlin Lingeveldt and Danisha Patel win their opening match against Ghana 3-0 but they lost their next encounter by the same margin to Nigeria.
Knocked out by the drawing of lucky envelopes, Banyana Banyana have not missed a trick as they prepare for their Rio Olympics qualifier against Equatorial Guinea.
They’ve been hard at training since losing out to Ghana in the ‘draw’ and on Wednesday played Tanzania.
They drew 0-0 and Vera Pauw was both a frustrated and happy coach. ‘We create so many chances but we just don’t score.’
It’s a mantra often repeated by English Premier League club Manchester United’s coach, Louis van Gaal, a fellow Netherlands citizen.
‘We probably played the best game I’ve seen since I took over as coach,’ she lamented. ’We are doing everything right but we just need to score goals. Sure, we are missing a few key strikers who are away on international club duty but we also need to create a national league.
‘With all respect to the SASOL League maybe there are too many players there who need to be concentrated into a more competitive environment.’