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Cameron & Co boost Team SA

South Africa’s Commonwealth team swelled in both numbers and pride as their highly-rated swimming contingent arrived in New Delhi to provide a big boost to the squad.

With heavyweights like Roland Schoeman, Cameron van der Burgh and Darian Townsend in the athletes village, there is now a real sense that the country is ready to deliver.

Early Friday will see the arrival of the track and field athletes, another code which is expected to get amongst the medals when competition gets under way on Sunday and lasts until October 14.

There is a sense of spirit and unity in the team that augurs well, despite the recent withdrawals that have affected the Sevens rugby team and track and field, in the case of our two world 800m champions, Caster Semenya and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.

The point was driven home by the weightlifter who shot to fame with an unexpected bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Babalwa Ndleleni. When asked directly at the country’s first international press conference in the athletes village yesterday, what impact the absence on Semenya will have on South African team morale, she replied: ÔÇ£We are all athletes and in sport injuries happen to athletes. It’s one of those things, unfortunately, but we have to deal with it and move on,ÔÇØ the lifter in the 75kg class said.

Among the arrivals in New Delhi on Thursday was the SASCOC CEO, Tubby Reddy, who expressed his satisfaction with the athletes village. ÔÇ£I was here a short while ago and the improvements that have been made in that time is encouraging. And I’ve had a look around Block 22 (where the athletes are being housed) and things look clean and extremely livable,ÔÇØ he added.

Schoeman, the much decorated swimming household name however was in less of a charitable mood after flying in from France. ÔÇ£The electricity in my room is not working which means that the aircon is not working. If it’s still not working tonight I’m not going to be able to sleep, and that’s not a good thing so close to competition.ÔÇØ

Van der Burgh, another star in the water, had his first impression of Delhi and liked it. ÔÇ£Delhi immigration! Pretty impressive,ÔÇØ he tweeted.

October 2 is a public holiday here and the Games will get under way on October 3 with the opening ceremony in the main stadium. South Africa has ambitious targets, and while the absence of two virtual medal certainties in Semenya and Mulaudzi is to be lamented, the fact that there are so many others willing to stick up their hands is encouraging for what lies ahead.