By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
It wasn’t the most productive of days in the pool for Team South Africa’s swimmers at the African Games here on Wednesday but they still added another seven to the team’s kitty.
The latest haul brings the aquatic code’s tally to 39 after the three previous night’s returns of six, 14 and 12 respectively.
Wednesday’s winners were Tatjana Schoenmaker in the 100-metre breaststroke (1min 09.47sec), Ayrton Sweeney in the 200m breast (2:14.41) and then the men’s 4x100m relay team (3:19.69).
Silvers went to Vanessa Mohr in the 100m butterfly (1:00.26), Myles Brown in the 400m free (3:48.69) and little Charlise Oberholzer in the 800m free (9:00.15). The evening’s lone bronze was won by Rita Naude in the 100m fly (1:03.86).
The 400m free was a neck and neck struggle between Olympian Brown and Egyptian Ahmed Akram. When they turned for home over the last 50m, Akram had a gap of 0.61sec and although the man coach Graham Hill calls ‘Fox’ dug deep the final margin was 0.63sec.
Calvin Justus was fifth in the same race with a time of 3:59.99.
Schoenmaker won SA’s first gold of the night with her 100m breast win as Kelly Gunnell finished fifth in 1:11.71.
‘I’m a little disappointed because I wanted to go 1:08 or so,’ said Schoenmaker.
‘My personal best is the 1:08 I swam at nationals this year. I was a bit tired though, having swum three heats and three finals. Now I’ve just got the 4x100m women’s medley left. It’s a really nice pool though, still better than anything we’ve got in SA.’
And then it’s back to studies in Pretoria. ‘I’m in Grade 12 now doing preliminaries and I’ve been meaning to study but have actually been too tired.’
Next up will probably be the Northern Tigers meeting in December with a World Cup probably thrown in as well.
Next up and the next gold medallist was Sweeney, who made his FINA World Championships debut in Kazan, Russia last month.
The Cape Town-born Durban-based swimmer led pretty much from block to wall and nailed down the win pretty comfortably with a 3.39sec victory margin. He was also only 0.14sec off Algerian David Soufiane’s Championship record from 2007.
In the same race, Edward Johannisen was seventh in 2:28.02 after struggling with a groin injury during his stay in Congo.
The women’s 800m freestyle saw SA representation halved when Megan van Wyk was withdrawn as a precautionary measure due to health issues.
That left 16-year-old Oberholzer to fly the flag. And the Alisdair Hatfield coached swimmer did that with huge honour as she tracked Algeria’s Majda Chebaraka all the way to the finish. With 200m to go the gap was 1.74sec and at the finish it was 1.62sec.
It was an extremely youthful looking podium with a a 15,16 and 17-year-old collecting the medals.
The final of the men’s 4x100m free saw Doug Erasmus lead off followed by Clayton Jimmie, Calvyn Justus and anchored by Caydon Muller.
Although Egypt edged ahead for a 0.32sec lead after the first leg, SA soon took over and after leg two the gap was 0.68sec and the third leg 0.85.
And although Egypt pulled it back a bit over the last two lengths, SA nailed their last gold of the evening with a 0.53sec margin.
Other Wednesday action saw the badminton code winning six medals on their final night of the competition for a total of seven. After winning silver in the team competition they won gold and silver in the mixed doubles, gold and silver in the men’s singles and gold in the men’s doubles.
Meanwhile in the team’s second boxing match of the Games there was no such thing as a close shave for 2012 Olympian Ayabonga Sonjica.
He was scheduled to fight Uganda’s Sasir Bashir. The two went through the pre-fight medical but the referee took one look at Bashir and decided that he was not clean-shaven as stipulated by AIBA conditions and awarded Sonjica a walkover through to the next round.
See under Media Releases for Team SA’s opening beach volleyball report.
Meanwhile, Team SA bade farewell to two codes as fencing and gymnastics left for home on Wednesday. A few swimmers also joined them on the flight back to Johannesburg.
And taking their place was a sizeable squad of track and field athletes and para-athletes, para-powerlifting, judo, and wrestling.
A great pity is that of the original squad world T13 100m champion Ilse Hayes failed to make the trip after injuring her back while working out in the gym. Also injured is Liezel Gouts.
But stalwart Michael Lourens is back for his fourth African Games in the F57 shot put event. He’s also a six-time Paralympian.
Table tennis also gets underway tomorrow. They start their preliminary matches in the same Revolution Hall used by badminton.
Says manager/coach Neville Parker: ‘We play Gabon, Algeria and Djibouti. Algeria are our main hurdle. If we can get past them we’ll set ourselves up for a much kinder draw in the next round.’