There’s always pressure when one is a gold medal favourite, but Ashleigh Pasio was a cool as a cucumber in the Moroccan heat as she won the individual time trial outside Casablanca, writes GARY LEMKE.
Not only did the 33-year-old two-time Olympian win the gold, but she led home Zanri Rossouw who collected the silver medal, to make it a memorable 1-2 for the South Africans. It was Rossouw’s second medal of these African Games after she secured gold in the team time trial on Saturday.
However, the result was hardly in doubt from the moment Pasio descended down the ramp to start the 28km event and powered down the road and out of sight. She was soon making inroads into the times of all her competitors and finally won with a lot to spare, her time of 38min 16.90sec pulling her nearly a full two minutes clear of Rossouw’s 40:12.10.
In the men’s department the favourite duly obliged and Team SA delivered another perfect 1-2, with Ryan Gibbons leading home Kent Main in 46:50.34 on the timesheets and winning by 22.72sec. Both had been part of the men’s team time-trial quartet that won the gold medal on Saturday as well. That was a performance that led to those within the Team SA camp having no doubt that Gibbons was as close to a racing certainty for individual gold than it gets.
‘He’s got such power in those legs,’ said teammate Jayde Julius. ‘When he put down the accelerator it was like he was on a Vespa motorbike … he just kept going and it took a lot to get back on his wheel.’
On Monday Gibbons’ gold came after Pasio had given Team SA cycling a fourth gold from as many races. Then Gibbons made it five from five and the squad have already done considerably better than they did in the last African Games in 2015.
In their previous venture at the Games, in 2011 in Brazzaville, they also won five gold medals to go with three silvers and two bronze medals – and the tally included a 1-2-3 in the men’s road race and a 1-2 in the women’s. So, the class of 2019 still has some work to do to match the achievements of those from eight years ago, but one more gold would do the trick. And given that the road races are still to come later in the week, and the form that the Team SA cyclists are showing, it’s hard to bet against them adding more gold to their tally.
Other sports involving Team SA on Monday were table tennis, badminton, tennis and it also marked the start of the track and field.
Badminton, who delivered a mixed team’s medal on Sunday, saw the action turn to the singles and there were good wins for Ruan Snyman, Jarred Elliot, Michelle de Beer and Nita Scholtz, while Bongani van Bodenstein had a bye.
Team SA coach Stewart Carson has particularly high hopes for Scholtz and De Beer in the singles and he reckoned that another three medals from his code are realistic expectations.
There will be many more expected from athletics and Zinzi Chabungu got the code on the medals table won the bronze medal with a leap of 13.59m, with birthday girl – she turned 30 – Patience Ntshingila taking fourth place on 13.47m.
The big surprise of the day was the failure of 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Henricho Bruintjies to reach the final after a 10.43 in the semi-final had him miss out on Tuesday’s final by one position.
It was a good day for tennis’ Chanel Simmonds who reached the quarter-finals with a smooth 6-2, 6-1 win over Morocco’s Rania Azzizs. ‘I played very well today. My opponent was very young and I used my experience to stay solid and consistent and she got frustrated and made a lot of errors,’ Simmonds said. ‘I’m feeling more confident on the clay and I felt that I improved a lot today. My movement is smoother which allows me to be more prepared behind the ball.’
She has dropped only four games in winning both her matches following a first-round bye and is quickly confirming why she is a medal favourite later this week.
For a roundup of all Monday’s action click on the link below.