By Gary Lemke
Gideon Sam, the president of SASCOC, has declared he is ‘very excited’ about the future of South African sport, but also reckoned that there will be some ‘big decisions’ taken in October.
Sam was speaking at a press conference at the Ekhaya hospitality centre in Glasgow, where Team SA said its goodbyes to its track and field athletes, para-athletes, boxers and lawn bowlers, all who have contributed handsomely to the country’s medals tally at the Commonwealth Games.
However, Sam used the conference to deliver some straight-talking that mapped out the country’s immediate future.
‘Look, we are at the halfway point of this cycle. The Commonwealth Games is in the middle of that and I’m very excited that we’re heading in the right direction to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
‘The various federations must use August and September to think things over and then we must have some intense in-depth talks. Those talks are not going to be nice for some federations. They will be honest and some hard truths.
‘Some federations must walk the walk. At the moment some federations talk too much,’ Sam said.
Team SA look likely to finish seventh on the overall medals table as they headed into Saturday night’s programme with 12 golds, 10 silvers and 16 bronzes for a total of 38.
‘We always knew that Scotland, as hosts, would be formidable here. And so they have proved, they’re fourth on the table. But, I said that we should target 15 gold medals. We wanted to finish fifth. If you look at the medals table, India are in fifth with 13 golds, and New Zealand are sixth with 13 golds. We have 12. Had we got 15 we would have been fifth.
‘I also said that we were targeting 40 medals in total. After we came back from Delhi with 12 golds and 33 medals I said that we should be looking at 40 from Glasgow. But my CEO, Tubby Reddy, said, “no, let’s push the bar higher. Let’s target 43”, so you can blame him,’ Sam said light-heartedly.
In addressing the federations he praised a few and delivered a broadside to a few.
‘Before these Games swimming came to me and said, “we won’t get less than seven medals”. They were confident and they came to the party. Bowls said, “we’ll get more medals than Delhi”. They didn’t specify how many, but they too have delivered,’ he said. With their five golds, South Africa were the most successful bowls country at these Commonwealth Games.
Sam added: ‘In October we will determine “yes” or “no” to athletes and federations about Rio 2016. We can always add to the list and take one or two off, but the broad picture will be painted in October. That’s it.
‘We will not give in to the mediocre. In four to eight years South African sport will be back where it belongs.’
Sam also spoke specifically about four sports with Rio in mind. ‘We are going to be conducting serious one-on-ones with all the codes and federations. And when it comes to boxing, cycling and weightlifting, in particular, it’s not going to be nice. There are going to be casualties. Gymnastics is another code in that bracket. We are going to have to be very open and frank with them,’ Sam said.