South Africa’s Olympic governing body SASCOC this week celebrated a successful 2013 but already the planning for 2014 and even beyond is gathering momentum.
A press briefing at Olympic House, Johannesburg on Tuesday, 19 November, outlined some of the sporting highlights of 2013 and upcoming events and plans.
Among the successes was the successful delivery of Team South Africa to the World Games in Cali, Colombia where four medals were won two in lifesaving, one in tug-of-war and one in sevens rugby.
Most recent success was a most productive hosting of the ICCE Global Coaching Conference in Durban.
A key part of future plans was the launching, in partnership with the Free State Province, of the National Training Centre in Mangaung and alsofundamental was the solidifying of already existing sporting partnerships and the establishing of new partnerships.
It was also noted that SASCOC’s Operation Excellence programme (OPEX) continued to be a most fruitful venture with a whole host of South Africa’s sporting stars on the programme, making their mark on the international stage. Their progress continued to be closely monitored by SASCOC Chief Executive Officer Mr Tubby Reddy, who also heads up the High Performance Advisory Committee.
Some of the sporting highlights by OPEX athletes, included two gold medals by Chad Le Clos and one by Cameron van der Burgh at the FINA Swimming World Championships, athlete Johan Cronje won bronze in the men’s 1500-metre event at the IAAF Athletics Championships.
Paralympic swimmer Charl Bouwer shone with four medals, including a silver at the IPC World Championships while there were also medals for Kevin Paul (gold) and Hendri Herbst. Our para-athletes also starred with veteran Paralympian Ilse Hayes winning gold and silver at IPC World Championships and Dyan Buis and Anrun├® Liebenberg both winning two silver medals. Handcyclist Ernst van Dyk won two silvers at the IPC World Road Championships and tennis ace Lucas Sithole became the first African to win the quad section of the US Open.
Mr Reddy says: Our athletes have done the nation proud by performing exceptionally in their various sport codes. We continue to render them undivided support through programmes such as OPEX in preparation of Rio and beyond.
Some of our top sports stars, including Olympic gold medallist swimmer Le Clos, will head for Europe later this week as part of an ambitious SASCOC plan to make it that much easier for our athletes to compete against their international counterparts.
Italy will be the destination as a handful of athletes visit a top-notch training facility in Gemona for a test period. It is planned that over time, many of our athletes will use this as a springboard to competitions in Europe.
Earlier in 2013, SASCOC President Mr Gideon Sam and General Manager (High Performance) Ms Ezera Tshabangu visited Italy to conduct extensive research into the planned project.
The result is that SASCOC and the Italian Olympic Committee will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, 26 November.
“This is part of our drive to have various international training bases throughout the world,” said President Sam. “We already have agreements with the NOC’s of Chinese Taipei and Zimbabwe and are in discussions with Botswana and Qatar with the same purpose.
“I have always been of the opinion that to assist our athletes to compete on the European circuit, we need to help those based in Europe so that they can stay for longer periods of competition. National Federations will also be able to have their training camps at this base. Naturally we will reciprocate in terms of other countries sending athletes to South Africa.”
Said Ms Tshabangu: “The delegation to Italy will include five sporting codes, namely: Athletics (including a Paralympian athlete), Boxing, Canoeing, Judo and Swimming.
“They will test the facilities on offer in the region and give their feedback to the authorities in order that we may make any adjustments to the authorities for when more athletes and NF’s use the facilities in 2014.”
Apart from Le Clos, the following athletes will head for Europe this Friday: Anaso Jobodwana (athletics), Tebogo Mokgalagadi (para-athletics), Ayabonga Sonjica, Siphiwe Lusizi (both boxing), Bridgitte Hartley (canoeing), Siyabulela Mabulu and Chris Cousins (judo) and Myles Brown, Tatum Tarpey and Lahesta Kemp (all swimming).
Top coaches Graham Hill (swimming), Johan Prinsloo (boxing) and Vincent Redpath (judo) as well as the athletics manager of Team SA at the London Olympics, Hezekiel Sepeng, will be part of the delegation, as will Hartley’s personal coach, Nandor Almasi.
A Chief Medical Officer and a physiotherapist will accompany the team on their European experience.
“We believe this relationship will be a long one, even post Rio,” said Tshabangu, who said further mutual agreements are expected to be finalised in the first quarter of 2014.
Still looking ahead and with the 2014 Winter Olympic Games taking part in Sochi, Russia, young Sive Speelman leaves for Austria shortly where he will compete in eight competitions. A competitor at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics, Speelman needs to complete five of the Austrian competitions to attain an average qualification score. The Eastern Cape skier has until 19 January 2014 to qualify.
Main event on the SASCOC calendar in 2014 is the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, with qualification criteria based on being in the top five of the Commonwealth rankings, both individually and in team events.
In this regard, the Queens Baton Relay visits SA shores in 10-13 February and will take in the Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg areas. In 2010, the Queens Baton Relay also came to South Africa and visited the Western Cape, including a trip to the historic Robben Island venue.
The second Youth Olympics (for 14-18 year olds) will be held in Nanjing, China in August, featuring 28 sporting codes. Already canoeing and judo have qualified one slot each. It was at the inaugural Youth Olympics four years ago in Singapore that Le Clos first announced himself as a future world star.
In this regard, SASCOC called upon applications for the IOC Young Reporters Programme, a sports journalism training programme that will be run during the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Likewise, applications were also received for the Young Ambassadors (YA) programme. The primary role of the YA is to encourage the athletes to actively participate in a number of learning experiences that take place in parallel to the competition programme. Selected candidates for both programmes were forwarded to Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), who will choose the final representatives of Africa.
Another event always considered vital in terms of unearthing new talent on the national sports front will be the Zone 6 Games in Zimbabwe. South Africa has a proud history of topping the medals table at this event featuring the top countries in the Southern African region and will be looking to continue this trend.