By Mark Etheridge
in Gaborone, Botswana
Our swimmers continued to provide the medal power for Team South Africa at the 2nd African Youth Games here on Sunday.
Going into the day with 19 medals, another 12 came South Africa’s way and the swimmers had a handy five more to contribute.
Four of them were gold and another bronze.
The codes in medal-winning action were: aquatics, cycling, judo and rowing.
Let’s have a look at just how those medals were won.
The action in the University of Botswana swimming pool accounted for four gold and one bronze medal.
There were four different gold medallists on the night.
They came from Bryan Gray (50-metre backstroke, 26.38sec), flagbearer Tatjana Schoenmaker (100m breaststroke, 1:10.73), Rita Naude (50m backstroke, 30.18) and Alard Basson (50m butterfly, 25.49).
Our lone bronze medal came from Daniel Ronaldson in the 50m freestyle (24.15).
“I’m very happy with the team tonight,” said manager Mpho Makgatha. “We have just five finals left on Monday night and one gold medal will see us win the gala.
“We are four clear of Egypt right now and if we get one more we will be untouchable.”
Our road cyclists wheeled into action for the women’s and men’s team trial events on Sunday and it was gold both ways.
First off where the women’s trio of Michelle Benson, Frances du Toit and Catherine Colyn.
They raced two laps of 10.5km and the SA girls wiped out the seven opposition teams.
Said manager Hendrik Wagener: “We started last but we caught all of the others, the last one, Egypt, right at the finish.
“Egypt had some problems though with a chain problem and a puncture.
“We won by three minutes, ahead of Egypt and Nigeria.”
Next up were the boys who raced 33km and the green and gold were represented by Ivan Venter, Stefan de Bod, Graeme Ockhuis and Carl Bonthuys.
They were part of a15-team line-up. “We started third last,” said Wagener. “We only caught Egypt and also only knew on the last lap that we had it in the bag.”
The South African team’s time was 39min 21sec, 41sec ahead of Morocco and then┬á Algeria.
“We have a rest day on Monday and then it’s the individual time trials with Ivan Venter and Stefan de Bod in the boys’ race and Michelle Benson and Frances du Toit in the girls.”
After their gold medal win in the women’s -78kg code, courtesy of Unelle Snyman it was the turn of our judoka to test their mettle in the mixed team event.
Coach Mark Desfountain hadn’t been overly optimistic about any possible medal chances but will be a happy man after three medals came our way.
Not one but three medals thudded into the Team SA coffers. They came from Christiaan Boshoff (gold), Snyman (bronze) and William Redpath (also bronze).
The judo code has now wrapped up their participation at these games. Already Snyman has qualified for the Olympic Youth Games in Nanjing, China later this year.
There were two medals for this code, who were in action on the low-level Gaborone Dam.
And it was gold and silver for Amy Mattushek and Daniel Watkins and in the 500m sprint events.
Watkins, a 17-year-old product of St Alban’s College in Pretoria, clocked 1min 47sec for his silver and Mattushek was timed at 2:05.
Said manager Tiago Loureiro: “Daniel’s race went pretty good, he took the lead at halfway but the weather was pretty tough and he came close to capsizing at one stage and being a a straight out sprint, the 500m leaves no room for error.”
As for Mattushek, who attends St Andrews in Johannesburg, the coach had this to say: “She also had to contend with very bumpy conditions, the worst since we’ve been here but she took the lead from the start and that was that.”
Monday sees the relay events.
“This is a a new experience for us and we have Charles Brittain and Rosanne Bentley who will both race 500m and be involved in some sort of tag exchange, we’ll see tomorrow how that goes.”
There was also action in other codes, albeit no medals:
There was happiness and heartbreaking in the ring for two of our fighters at the Botho University campus.
Edwin Tshabalala punched his way into the light-flyweight semi-finalists with a 3-0 win against Agali Adama Oumarou. “Hy’d hom stukkend geklap [He boxed him broken]”, said manager Hans Britz afterwards.
Tshabalala, 17, was happy with his win. “It was a toughish fight but it was my straight right that did the job,” said the 17-year-old from Orange Farm, Gauteng.
His opponent took two standing counts and is now into the semi-finals and a guaranteed bronze medal.
“Bronze? No I’m going for gold,” said a confident Tshabalala who has been boxing since the age of eight and still a pupil at the Vulanidlela Secondary School.
Also in action was Julienne Smith, pictured above with coach Britz, fighting only her third international bout.
The pretty Kimberly teenager, known in the team as Lulu, took on Chahira Selmouni and immediately attack her Algerian opponent’s body from round one. She had a slip in the second round but came back well in the third with good rights and more attacks to the body.
But when it came to the verdict, the judges, two of whom were from Tunisia and Egypt, made it a unanimous decision to the Algerian.
Britz could only shake his head. “No ways, maybe the first round could have gone either way but we took all the boxing goes.”
Our youngsters took on hosts, Botswana at the University of Botswana stadium and drew 1-1.
Jessica Choga reports that the match was extremely competitive and the boys played well against their rivals who had huge support. About 20 minutes into the match SA missed a great chance to score but this did not mean they slacked off.
They missed still more chances but remained vigilant in defence, making it difficult for their rivals to score despite the fact that for most of the first half, the ball was in SA’s half.
After half time, the team came back rejuvenated and even though they missed┬á a couple of chances, Tony Zwane finally put them ahead 20 minutes into the second half by scoring from close range (1-0 SA).
The boys continued to defend well but just three minutes before the final whistle Botswana levelled matters.
Said Zwane: ÔÇ£The match wasn’t too tough but I still have to learn a lot on my accuracy so that we score more goals. I hope in the next match I improve in that respect.
Commented SA coach, James Mabena: “I feel the boys could have done better if they kept focused. The last goal for Botswana was just given away by our team. However, these AFG’s are their first at this high level so I am happy that they are learning and I am sure they will get there.ÔÇØ
Our girls side went down 3-0 to Nigeria.