By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s badminton aces have won silver again, this time after the All Africa Individual Championships, played on home soil in Benoni, Gauteng.
The host nation lost 3-1 to Egypt in the final. The silver medal was all the more sweeter as South Africa were without their No 1 singles players, Elmé de Villiers and Jacob Maliekal.
Both are based overseas at the moment, the former in Dubai and the latter in China, and there wasn’t sufficient funding for their travels back to South Africa.
‘It would have made a big difference had we had them playing,’ said national coach Chris Dednam.
‘We lost to Egypt with the men’s singles and women’s doubles losing 19 in third sets. Jennifer Fry was our star of the week, bringing home two gold medals in the individual women’s doubles and mixed.’
In the pool games South Africa beat Mauritius 3-2, Algeria 3-2 and Nigeria 3-2 and then Zambia 3-0 in the semi-finals.
The SA team also won silver at the All African Games in Brazzaville, Congo two years ago.
The team doing duty for SA on this occasion were: Sandra le Grange, Fry, Michelle Butler-Emmett, Johanita Scholtz, Andries Malan, James McManus, Cameron Coetzer and Bonging van Bodenstein.
Said double gold-medallist Fry: ‘We did pretty well, considering its a newish team. We had a few newbies in the team. They did well,and considering the team we had, we did well to get where we were.
‘In the individuals, it was nerve-wracking for both mixed and doubles. I haven’t played an international event since African games in Brazzaville two years ago, so was feeling a bit rusty.
‘Myself and Andries [pictured above] played mixed, and then my new partner Michelle Butler-Emmett (not new to the team though) played ladies doubles. ‘Both the mixed and doubles finals were incredibly intense, and we had to fight for every single point. Both games went to three sets, which shows that it was a fight, but we won our games.
‘I think the hunger for that gold is what got us through the intensity in the matches.
’We are very excited about winning this, because as the new Olympic cycle starts, we have a foot in the door and our partnership (in both instances) can only grow stronger.’
Looking ahead, Dedham said: ‘Most will participate at next month’s Arnold Africa Classic, and then the focus will shift to the Commonwealth Games next year.’