By Mark Etheridge
Another 11 medals boosted Team South Africa’s medal tally to 12 shy of the 100m-mark on the penultimate day of the 2nd African Youth Games here on Friday.
The Games are scheduled to end on Saturday with just athletics, football and the closing ceremony scheduled for the National Stadium.
Medal-winning codes on Friday were athletics (two), canoeing (two), fencing (one), mountain bike cycling (three), and tennis (three).
The total tally is now 88 (made up for 38 gold, and 25 each of silver and bronze) and the race to top the medals table looks like being decided between South Africa and Egypt.
The team were treated to an evening medal celebration dinner at a local hotel where SASCOC CEO Tubby Reddy congratulated the team. “All of you really came to the party at these Games and should be looking ahead to the 2016 Games in Rio and 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“Its our intention that all the medallists here will be placed into some sort of programme going forward and we’ll be doing all that we can to assist them, with the help of the parents and the National Federations’ support.
The 11 medals, which boosted Team SA’s Games total to 88 with one day of competition left, came like this:
First medal of the day came from Gauteng’s Pierre Vermaak who strode to bronze in the boys’ 10-kilometre walk.
Instead of the usual road walk, athletes were required to do 25 laps of the national stadium’s track. Vermaak’s medal was all the more meritworthy when one considers that not long ago he came close to losing his life when hit by a taxi while out training. His bronze medal came in 47min 02sec.
Late in the day it was Jo-An├® van Dyk, pictured right, who took gold in the women’s javelin as she launched the spear 47.84 metres. Also in action was fellow javelin athlete Dan├®l Bieldt but although she took part along side Van Dyk, she was competing in the non-medal winning B final.
Living in Heidelberg, Western Cape, Van Dyk is a pupil at Outeniqua high School in George. “I didn’t really throw nearly as well as I could have,” was the candid observation of her own form. Her best throw to date is the 55.15m she threw at the last SA schools Championships in East London.
Jesse Perez was in action in the men’s triple jump but pulled out midway, blaming ankle issues.
Meanwhile out on Gaborone’s local dam it was KwaZulu-Natal’s Brandon Orpwood who stroked his way to two golds in the morning finals.
The youngster has been getting in some good results on the international scene lately.
Jessica Choga reports from dam-side that being the last competition in the sport code, Orpwood wrapped up the competition exceptionally by winning two gold medals in the C1 slalom and K1 slalom respectively. In both the competitions he competed against Nigerian opposition.
Even though the competition was very stiff, Orpwood’s turning skills distinguished him from his opponent and landed him with two gold medals. An ecstatic Orpwood, who comes from the tiny village of Creighton in KZN and is a Maritzburg college student, commented, ÔÇ£I didn’t expect the competition to be this tough but I am happy I managed to come out top and win gold medals.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£The African Youth Games are an unforgettable experience and any athlete who gets a chance to participate in games of such magnitude I must encourage to maximize the chance.ÔÇØ
Code manager Debbie Bird, was very pleased with Orpwood’s performance today: ÔÇ£The opponent from Nigeria is very good and the finish was close but I am happy that Brandon came out tops in the competition.
ÔÇ£Brandon is the most laid back member of the team but when he needs to race he focuses very well. Well done on the good performance.ÔÇØ
And even further out of town, at the Mokolodi venue on the road to Otse it was a good day for our cycling squad as first Frankie du Toit and Relebohile Pebane picked up the gold and silver medals in the girls’ mountain bike event.
The small field of six took on four laps of 5.6km through the sandy bushveld scrub.
The presence of numerous gravestones and crosses on the route made for somewhat of a macabre atmosphere but for Du Toit it was a case of head down and dead ahead.
She clocked 53min 21sec with Diepsloot, Soweto teammate Pebane second in 1hr 10min 28sec.
“It was a nice course,” said Wartburg’s Du Toit who was also fourth in the individual time trial earlier in the week. “The first half had a slight uphill drag and some rocky uphill sections and then a short downhill. It was also very twisty.”
There were also other dangers en route. “Even on the startline I could see thorns sticking out of my tyre but didn’t want to take them out in case there was a puncture.”
The win also means that Du Toit will top the UCI MTB junior rankings.
The boys race ÔÇô six laps of 5.6km ÔÇô was a lot closer as Alan Hatherly, see right, was involved in a battle royal with Namibia’s Tristan de Lange.
Further back down the field Johannes Masetla was in contention for a bronze before ending fifth and there was early heartbreak for Lawrence Mogano who suffered a technical failure when his hanger broke virtually within sight of the start, meaning he had to push his bike or freewheel when he could for the remainder of the lap.
Said Hatherly afterwards: “I went for a fast start to eliminate the leading group and Tristan and I got a break early on. We shared the lead 50/50 for most of the way way.”
It then came down to a sprint finish as the course was so flat, according to the 18-year-old Hillcrest High (KZN) pupil. “I managed to get past Tristan just before the final corner on the last bit of single track.”
But there was a small price to pay for his final passing manouevre. “I rode straight into a thorn tree as I went past him and I cut my arm on the way through.”
This code picked up yet another medal when Cape Town’s Faa’iq Gamieldien slashed and cut his┬á way to bronze in the boy’s foil.
Going into the Games the code’s management would in all likelihood have been happy to win one medal but three will be a huge boost going forward.
This code had a smashing day out at the National Tennis Centre courts, winning three medals for the team.
Most productive in terms of medals was Durbanville’s Janet Koch. She won silver in the singles final.
She teamed up with fellow Durbanville player Kris van Dyk (they both attend the Curro College in Durbanville) and ended up with bronze in the women’s doubles.
Van Dyk also doubled up as he teamed with Richard Thongoana to take bronze in the boy’s doubles.
Pictures: Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA. For more free high quality pictures visit: www.sascocimages.co.za