By Mark Etheridge
Team South Africa had their most successful day of the All Africa Games here on Tuesday as another 15 medals headed the way of the continent’s most southern nation.
Once again it was the swimmers who came to the party and they added 12 medals, one better than the previous day. Of these four were gold, three silver and five bronze.
One of the brightest lights of the night was young Chad le Clos, the KwaZulu-Natal youngster getting silver in the 100-metre butterfly and less than half an hour later, gold in the 400m Individual Medley.
“This guy is on fire,” enthused Swimming South Africa head coach Graham Hill. “Both of his times were Olympic Games A-qualifying standard and he’s really looking good.”
Le Clos clocked 52.17 for the 100m fly behind the world’s fourth ranked swimmer in this event, Kenya’s Jason Dunford. Encouraging for Le Clos was that he was just a stroke away from overhauling Dunford who won in 52.13.
In the IM Le Clos was in a class of his own, winning in 4:16.88 with team-mate Riaan Schoeman third in 4:25.32.
Double world championships medallist Cameron van der Burgh blitzed to victory in the 50m breastroke to add to his 100m breaststroke win the previous night. He clocked 27.81. His winning time at the last Games in Algeria four years ago was 27.74.
“Ja, I’m pretty happy with my time tonight,” said Van der Burgh, who jets back to South Africa on Wednesday, his job done for the team here. I’ve had a nice break since World Championships and so I’m nice and rested. I can feel I’m a bit out of shape right now and that’s what motivates me.”
Van der Burgh, who is busy finalising a coaching arrangement with Croatian coach Nenad Milosh, will next compete next month. “It’s the world short-course championships in Dubai and I’ve won the last two years so it’s nice to go back again.”
The other two golds of the evening went to Karin Prinsloo, her third gold of the Games, and comeback kid Suzaan van Biljon.
Prinsloo won the 200m freestyle in 1:59.84 with team-mate Natasha de Vos second in 2:06.20. Van Biljon, now back in competition after a two-year lay-off won the 200m breaststroke. Swimming from the unfavourable lane eight after a hitch in the entry procedure, clocked 2:31.53 for gold and Katheryn Meaklim was third in 2:36.18.
Then in the 50m butterfly, Mandy Loots picked up silver in 27.30 and Bianca Meyer was sixth in the same race (29.17).
The final race of the evening, and the longest, saw Mark Randall get silver, just 0.04sec behind gold medallist Ahmed Mathlouthi of Tunisia and Jasper Venter took bronze in 8:21.76.
Other swimmers in action on Tuesday were Thabang Moeketsane, eighth (30.02) in the final and Neil Watson, who took bronze in the 100m fly.
The day’s other three medals went to the karate squad. Cape Town’s Coral Jacobs and Bloemfontein’s Bruno Schwalbach both got bronze in the kata competition while Morgan Moss picked up bronze in the +84kg division.
There was also an excellent win for the women’s netball team who finally got their campaign underway. A side made up mostly of players who weren’t in action at the recent World Championships in Singapore fought tooth and nail to down a bruising Botswana side 36-34. Said captain Precious Mthembu. “I suspect the Botswana girls thought they would just cruise past us but we just concentrated on doing the basics right and we shocked them. We were leading by eight points until the final five minutes when they started faking the odd injury to upset our rhythmn and getting more physical but we took it in our stride.
“This win will be huge for the side’s mentality and will stand us in good stead for the touch schedule ahead. We still have to play six more games in the Pool stage so these Games are going to be invaluable experience. I was really proud of the girls today, you could see how much it meant for them to be playing for their country.”
There’s little chance for the girls to digest their victory because next up for the girls are Ghana on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the men’s volleyballers lost yet another match, this time losing out to the Seychelles 3-1. They are yet to win a game at the Games.
Some 200 kilometres north of the capital there were no surprises for our canoeists and everyone in action went through to their finals.