Olympic governing body SASCOC have announced the names of athletes for the roll-out of the Operation Excellence (OPEX) programme going forward to 2016.
The programme which will see prospective medal-winners for Rio de Janeiro being supported financially and logistically on the four year run-in to Rio, features 48 of the country’s leading athletes (23 of them para-athletes).
Olympic Games athletes were drawn from nine codes, those of athletics, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, rowing, shooting, swimming and weightlifting. The Paralympic codes with representation on the programme are athletics, cycling (road) and swimming.
At the recent London Olympics Team South Africa won six medals and at the Paralympics the team came up with 29 medals.
All of South Africa’s 2012 Olympic medallists are part of the latest OPEX squad. They are swimmers Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, rowers Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and James Thompson, canoeist Bridgitte Hartley and track athlete Caster Semenya.
And in the Paralympic Games squad, double gold-medal winner Oscar Pistorius spearheads a multi-talented group of 23 athletes spread over four sporting codes, namely athletics, cycling (road), rowing and swimming.
Also there is Charl Bouwer who won three medals during the 2012 Games along with newcomers Dyan Buis and Anrun├® Liebenberg who made their Paralympic debuts in London.
Evaluation of the OPEX squad will continue to be done on a yearly basis but SASCOC will also be looking at key performances, such as at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 World Championships to determine which athletes will continue to be supported.
Said SASCOC President Mr Gideon Sam: “The OPEX programme for the London Olympics and Paralympics was definitely part of the reason for our successful medal haul. This is why we are sticking to the programme as we start our build-up for Rio 2016. We will continuously monitor the programme in order that our top athletes have all the best support and backing that is necessary to compete on the highest stage of world sport.”
For his part SASCOC Chief Executive Officer Mr Tubby Reddy said: “Programmes such as Opex are absolutely imperative if our athletes are to continue to shine at the Olympics and Paralympics. Our athletes cannot win medals single-handedly. This continued support of our stars will ensure that Team South Africa continues to make their presence felt at Olympics and Paralympics to come.
Continuing to head up the OPEX programme will be SASCOC General Manager (High Performance) Ms Ezera Tshabangu, who was Team South Africa’s Project Manager at the London Olympics.
She says: “OPEX has really helped our athletes, and we will try to ensure that we continue supporting them on the Road to Rio 2016. All the athletes in the Olympic team that returned with medals were on OPEX and in the Paralympics, of the 18 individual athletes that returned medals, 17 were on OPEX.
“The fact that we started as early as September 2012, immediately after the Paralympics, to evaluate the current quadrennial and plan for the next one bodes well for us. However, funding will remain a vital determining factor as to whether we support 50 or 100 athletes.┬áWe however, believe that the Provincial Academies will come to the party in supporting the athletes in their provinces in line with the national agenda.
“They will play a key role, especially in support of athletes earmarked for 2020 Games and those planning to qualify for Rio, who are just outside the OPEX criteria.”
OPERATION EXCELLENCE SQUAD FOR 2016
Athletics: Caster Semenya, Sunette Viljoen, Anaso Jobodwana, Lehann Fourie, Khotso Mokoena, Willem Coertzen
Boxing: Siphiwe Lusizi
Canoeing: Bridgitte Hartley, Tiffany Kruger
Cycling: Burry Stander, Bernard Esterhuizen
Judo: Gideon van Zyl
Rowing: Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain, John Smith, James Thompson, Naydene Smith, Lee-Ann Persse
Shooting: Allistair Davis
Swimming: Cameron van der Burgh, Chad le Clos, Suzaan van Biljon, Roland Schoeman, Troy Prinsloo
Weightlifting: Jean Greeff
Athletics: Andrea Dalle Ave, Arnu Fourie, Anrun├® Liebenberg, Charl du Toit, Casper Schutte, Dyan Buis, Fanie van der Merwe, Hilton Langenhoven, Jan Nehro, Jonathan Ntutu, Michael Louwrens, Oscar Pistorius, Teboho Mokgalagadi, Union Sekailwe, Zanele Situ, Ilse Carstens (Hayes)
Cycling (road): Ernst van Dyk, Gerhard Viljoen
Swimming: Achmat Hassiem, Charl Bouwer, Hendri Herbst, Kevin Paul, Shireen Sapiro