By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
Three-time African Games veteran Fanie van der Merwe raced to Team South Africa’s only gold medal of the day on the penultimate day of competition here at the African Games on Thursday.
The T37 para-athlete from Stellenbosch blitzed to victory in the men’s 100-metres, clocking 11.58 seconds, on a day where the team won seven other medals for a new tally of 121 medals with just the men’s freestyle wrestlers left with the chance of winning any more medals for the team on Friday.
The other medals came from athletics and para-athletics (five) and wrestling (two).
Van der Merwe said afterwards: ‘My journey here at the Games was great. I’ve made heaps of new friends and overall had a great experience.
‘The thing is to come to the African Games with lots of patience and not worry about the small things. This is definitely the best one that I’ve attended, in all aspects.’
As far as his race went he was over the moon. ‘I had a good start and it was also one of my best finishes of the season so far. I was also just 0.07 outside my personal best so I’ll go home happy.’
The athletics schedule wasn’t supposed to end on Thursday, only the para-athletics disciplines, but as things stood, organisers crammed everything into the evening, and as the final medal ceremonies were taking place, organising for Saturday’s closing ceremony was in full swing.
Cramming will be something that Annika Pretorius will be all too aware of. She end up racing the 400 and 100m T13 finals, not only on the same day but within 15 minutes of each other.
And the Stellenbosch based athlete can take a bow as she ran to bronze in the 400m (13.64) and silver in the 1000 (1:02.16).
‘Yet it was tough and there were people who said I should withdraw from the 100m but I’m just a person who loves to compete and this sort of experience is so vital ahead of IPC Athletics World Championships in Qatar next month. My legs were absolutely dead after the 400m but I’m very happy to have won two medals here.’
The other athletics medals were all bronze from Sonia Smuts in the shot put (15.92), Chris Moleya (high jump, 2.22m) and javelin (Philmar van Rensburg, 76.85).
Then in the wrestling it was silver and bronze for the team’s freestyle wrestling.
After another gruelling day of ‘hurry up and wait’ at the scorching hot and humid venue it was Jeanne-Marie Coetzer and Zumicke Geringer who took silver and bronze respectively in the 55 and 69kg divisions.
Both women were part of Team SA at last year’s Commonwealth Games team in Glasgow, Scotland.
Coetzer took on Nigeria’s Patience Opuene in the gold medal bout. ‘It was a real cat-fight,’ laughed the 28-year-old B Comm graduate from Johannesburg. ‘She was head butting me and all sorts of things but I didn’t stand back and gave as good as I got.
‘She had a point deducted for head-butting but soon after that she caught me, picked me up and threw me over her shoulder, head first and fall backwards on to me. It was really painful and there was nothing I could do.
‘She did the same sort of manoeuvre at the last African Championships in Tunisia. But I still think that if she hadn’t got me that early on I could have gone on and won. Now we have to look forward to continue trying to qualify for the Rio Olympics next year.
As for Geringer, she had the easiest medal of the Games for Team SA as her opponent failed to pitch so the only sweat she shed was in the warm-up area!
‘I was supposed to fight Memneloum Demos from Chad but when I walked out to the mat the next thing the referee was shaking my hand,’ said 25-year-old Geringer, who hails from Witbank.
‘I think she was maybe carrying an injury from one of her earlier fights against Senegal and Nigeria.’
The other women’s wrestler in action on Thursday was Refilwe Molongwana in the 75kg division but she failed to win any of her four fights.
Said coach Nico Coetzee: ‘Both the medallists have done well here and used their opportunities well to get to the medal matches. Jeanne-Marie wrestled as well as I’ve ever seen her and she gets better and better. There are still small things that we need to work on. The Nigerians are all power and strength rather than technique so what needs to be done is for us to up our power and then we’ll see a different story.
‘Refill just didn’t have a good tournament and that wasn’t the real Refilwe we saw today. She’s definitely way better than the results show.’
Friday’s final action of the Games for Team SA sees Gert Coetzee, Commonwealth Games wrestler Armando Hietbrink and junior Martin Erasmus in action.
‘I’d say we are definitely in with a chance of two or maybe even three medals,’ concluded Coetzee.
Table tennis also wrapped up their competition as they bowed out of the singles division at Revolution Hall.
Danisha Patel lost to Mauritius 4-2. Khanyisile Madlala had a first round walkover against Kenya and then lost in the second round to Congo, 4-0.
Youngster Caitlyn Lingeveldt lost 4-2 to Algeria in the first round and then Zodwa Maphanga had a first round victory but went down to Congo 4-3 in the second.
‘All the girls are now out but they have played very well,’ said manager/coach Neville Parker.