By Mark Etheridge
In what was our best day of competition at the African Youth Games here on Thursday as Team South Africa won a whopping 23 medals.
And it was a true team effort with the codes of athletics, canoeing, cycling, fencing, golf, karate and triathlon all getting in on the act before the Games conclude on Saturday.
Big winners on the day were athletics and karate with five apiece, golf and triathlon were next best with four each and then cycling and fencing had two each and canoeing one.
That makes for a total tally of 77… way more than the 58 medals that won Tunisia the inaugural Games in Morocco four years ago.
A breakdown of the medal count reads as: 33 gold, 22 silver and 22 bronze.
Here’s how the medals rolled in for Team South Africa:
Big Jason van Rooyen romped to his second medal of the Games after winning discus bronze on Wednesday. He then added a gold in his specialist event, the shot put (18.97 metres).
“It was very hot and luckily I wasn’t sore after the discus yesterday. The medical guys did a great job on me,” said Van Rooyen, celebrating his gold, right.
His personal best still stands at 19.30m.
Rakaku won his 100m in 10.51. Said the Bloemfontein (HTS DAnie Botha) scholar: “I had a good start but the headwind started hitting me for the last 20m and that slowed me a bit.
“I love the gold medal… it’s nice and heavy but will never be too heavy.”
The next gold came from Taylon Bieldt in the girls’ 100m hurdles which she won in 13.58.
“I started very aggressively,” said the Montana Ho├½r Skool (Pretoria) pupil. “Then quite near the end I looked to the right and saw another girl coming up fast so had to pull out all the stops.
“I was so happy with this win… there were quite a few tears afterwards,” said the 15-year-old youngster.
Later in the day there was more medal success in the field events with Nadia Meiring winning the girls’ hammer (the Free Stater’s best effort is a good 55.24m) and Western Province athlete Carla Johnson getting silver in the girl’s long jump (6.71m).
Donna Hutton added another gold to her K1 sprint event on Wednesday when she paddled off with victory in the slalom event on Gaborone Dam.
In an unusual turn of events, Hutton didn’t even have to get into her boat to race semi-finals or finals.
Explains team manager, Debbie Bird: “She paddled the quarters against teammate Nokukhanya Shange which she won.
“But the other girls in the quarters all missed the buoys which saw them disqualified so Donna was the only one to go through and was given the gold without having to paddle semis or finals.”
Meanwhile, in the C1 sprint and slalom events Brandon Orpwood dominated and is into the final as the venue’s race commentator remarked “he ‘paddles like a ballet dancer!”
Pretoria’s Michelle Benson took silver in the girls’ road race to go with her gold in the individual team trial two days ago.
And there was a first medal of the Games for Graeme Ockhuis in the men’s road race.
Friday will see the start of the mountain biking category where Frances “Frankie” du Toit will be hoping to get onto the podium after her furth place in the individual time trial earlier this week.
Two medals will be hugely celebrated in this code with so many of their north African rivals hugely benefited by the fact that proximity to Europe means they get regular top-level competition as a matter of course.
Both hail from the Gauteng area. Pavel’s mom, Natasha, also fenced for South Africa at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
It was a great day for SA at the Gaborone Golf Course as the code celebrated four medals, two of them gold.
Kyle McClatchie celebrated his 17th birthday on Wednesday by waltzing to victory in the men’s 54-hole strokeplay competition.
Reports Jessica Choga, McClatchie ended with a score of 212. Even though there was stiff competition between our Hennie du Plessis and
Zimbabwe’s golfer he upped his game and achieved a silver medal with 218 shots.
Our girls played well and Eleonora Galletti won a bronze medal with a score of 233.
Says McClatchie after his game, ÔÇ£Our greens are a bit different so it was really hard work but I had fun. Winning a gold medal is a great experience and I am happy to represent my country well.
ÔÇ£One day I hope I will be a pro and get as far as I can with the sport and of course make a lot of money.ÔÇØ
Du Plessis added, ÔÇ£It has been fun to be in Gaborone. Even though in the initial round I didn’t get my ball rolling fast enough, I am glad I┬á adjusted well, but I must say the game was tough. I was under so much pressure because my opponents were very good.ÔÇØ
Manager Helena Buitendag concluded: ÔÇ£These are our first games where golf is part of Olympic competitions and I am glad my team did well.
ÔÇ£I’m very happy of the achievements of my team. The field’s conditions were tough, the greens were not too good but the team did very well under these conditions.ÔÇØ
Two silvers and three bronze medals were collected by the white-suited brigade!
The silvers went to Gauteng’s Cheyenne Barros in the 59kg kumite division and the boy’s kata team.
Then there was a bronze from Michiel Uys in the 76kg kumite division and the girls again came to the party with team bronze in the team kata (Natalie Faint, Barros and Anke Smit doing the honours.)
There were two medals for Smit (who hails from Gordon’s Bay in the Cape) as she also took bronze in the 59kg kumite category.
Team South Africa ran away with four of the six medals on offer at the Otse Police College 40km outside the capital.
The girls won gold and silver and the boys then went on to grab silver and bronze.
First up were the women and it was Madelaine le Roux and Simone Faulmann who took gold and silver for the combined disciplines of swimming (750m), cycling (20km) and running (5km).
In a bizarre turn of events, the competitors had to hold heats the previous day due to the swimming being held in an eight-lane pool, meaning a maximum of eight finalists!
Le Roux, a 17-year-old student at Sentraal Ho├½rskool won in 1hr 08min 40sec from Westerford, Cape Town’s Faulmann (1:10:38).
The two exited the water just under a minute shy of Egyptian Rehab Hussein and then worked hard on the bike, Faulmann sitting just behind Le Roux, and overtook her on the third of eight bike laps.
When they started the run they had a 1:30 gap on Hussein and with the Egyptian having clocked 19min for the run in the heats, her legs were gone.
“The water was a bit cold,” said Le Roux who has qualified for the Youth Olympic Games in China later this year. “My cycling legs were a bit tired near the end and I had Simone on my tail most of the way.
“I ran quicker than in my heats and pulled away from Simone almost immediately. This win means a lot in my triathlon career but now I must concentrate on the exams that I’ve missed while away from school! I’ll write three next week and then the next week I have an exam on each day of the week.”
In the boys’ events it was Nathan Le Roux and Wickus Saunders who took silver and bronze on the day (both hail from East London). Le Roux had had a few anxious days after arriving in Botswana when his luggage went missing and it took a concerted team on the part of team management and his parents to get him to the start line with the right gear.
Summed up coach Viv Williams, herself a hugely experienced international triathlete: “I was absolutely blown away by the performances of all four athletes, especially Simone. Truly four talented athletes.”
Meanwhile, Jessica Choga caught up with our boxing gold medallist Azinga Fuzile who came out tops in the 60kg division on Wednesday.
It’s the first time he’s won gold at an event of such magnitude, and Fuzile is proud to have done South Africa proud by winning gold.
Today the young medallist was on the spotlight during the special.
Said Fuzile: ÔÇ£I am happy that I won the gold medal. In my previous competitions. I haven’t won but I promised myself to correct my mistakes and capitalize on them and I have done it.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£My father will be very proud of me because before I came for the games he told me that I should not come back home if I don’t win the match, he added.ÔÇØ
Fuzile however, is not competing at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China later this year, because the qualifying criteria was determined by a win at the world championships
ÔÇ£I’m proud of Azinga, he displayed excellent performance at the match, said boxing manager, Hans Britz.