It may have been Friday the 13th but there was nothing unlucky for South African wrestling at the Commonwealth Games, writes MARK ETHERIDGE in Gold Coast, Australia.
Martin Erasmus, a big boy from Brakpan on the East Rand of Gauteng, powered his way to South Africa’s first wrestling gold medal at the Games since Abraham Geldenhuys and a few of his teammates won gold in Cardiff 60 long years ago.
Erasmus beat India’s Mausam Khatri on a superior technicality scoreline, the margin being 12-2. A great victory for the SA strongman, one of the quietest, most humble gold medal winners you’ll ever see.
Erasmus had given something of a hint of things to come when he won senior gold at the African Championships in Nigeria earlier this year.
‘I didn’t really expect gold today,’ said the humble Erasmus. ‘I just fight match for match… this guy was tough again. I think he had an injury – but that’s not my problem.’
By saying ‘again’, Erasmus was referring to the Commonwealth championships held in Johannesburg earlier this year where the same opponent had got the better of him.
‘I’ve been wrestling since the age of three, it was passed on to me by my dad, Rassie, who still coaches me to this day.’
By day Erasmus is a parts salesman at an East Rand car-dealer and reckons this momentous victory won’t change much.
‘I’m not an emotional guy, I just take things day by day, year for year. I’m now looking forward to going home.’
‘I’m so proud,’ said code manager Nico Coetzee, one of SA wrestling’s true servants. ‘I’m obviously very happy… we’ve worked for this for the two previous Commonwealth Games.
‘We narrowly missed previously, but it won a couple of silvers and today we got it right. This young man has a brilliant future and so do a couple of the youngsters here.
‘They maybe didn’t get medals but we are working in the right direction. I’m extremely proud of this team and so grateful of all the support from each and every one in Team SA. It’s lovely to share this with SA and make you proud.’
An elated Sakkie Bosse, president of the South African Wrestling Federation, said: ‘It’s a huge day for South African wrestling. I’ve just spoken to the representative of the United World Wrestling and he reckons it was the match of the day [in the final bout].
‘I’m a very, very proud man today. Proud of Martin and also of coach Nico [Coetzee] who has done so much hard work in preparing our wrestlers for moments like this. It’s a great day for SA wrestling.’
The gold medal immediately pushed Team SA further ahead of New Zealand on the medals table. SA now sit fifth with 12 gold medals, two more than the Kiwis.
Photo: Erasmus in gold medal-winning action by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA