By Mark Etheridge
For the fourth day in a row it was the swimmers who saw to it that Team South Africa’s medal hunt kept up its momentum as the 2nd African Youth Games reached the halfway mark here.
Going into Monday with 31 medals, the swimmers added another seven to the treasure chest as their code wrapped up their four days of competition with 26 medals.
Added to that was another rowing medal and the boxers were also a hit with their first medal of the competition.
Team SA’s medal haul, after Monday’s nine new medals, is now 40, averaging out at 10 per day.
SASCOC also hosted a medal-winner’s celebration dinner in the town, attended by the medal-winning codes.
Said SASCOC Board member Dr Sam Ramsamy: “What is important here is that this is a stepping stone for all these youngsters. What is relevant and crucial is the experience of this team.
“It’s all about work, work and working all the time.
“The parental involvement involved in these Games is also a very important component of their success.”
Said flagbearer Tatjana Schoenmaker’s father, Ren├®: “A bit thank you to SASCOC. It’s always nice to know that our kids are being looked after well.”
Let’s look at how the medals were won:
The swimmers were in seventh heaven after another seven pieces of silverware were won in the water.
Actually, make that goldenware, as the two gold medals taken by the team ensured that the South Africans won the swimming competition.
Our two golds on Monday came from Rita Naude (100-metre butterfly, 1min 03:34sec)) and the 4x50m mixed medley squad (1:51.29).
There were also silvers for Alaric Basson (50m breaststroke, 29.61), Samantha Randle (400m freestyle, 4:28.51) and Daniel Ronaldson (100m freestyle, 52.33) and bronzes for Alard Basson (50m breaststroke, 30.24) and Bryan Gray (100m freestyle, 52.49).
Swim coach Grant Kritzinger was a happy man at the end of competition. “I think this team stepped up to the plate and swam well,” he said.
“It was a true team effort and I don’t want to single anyone out. I think the most important thing was for the team to bond well. It made a huge difference and everyone contributed.
“Almost all of these guys here could have made finals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China and there’s a lot of talent here that we will see in future years.
“Botswana hosted a great gala and the team just loved competing in front of a full house.”
Swimming ended the gala with 26 medals and a total of 13 gold, ahead of next best Egypt with 10.
Following our lone girls’ represenative, Julienne Smith’s upset defeat on Sunday, it was up to our two remaining boy boxers to redeem the code’s honour.
And it was up to Edwin Tshabalala to get the boxers on to the medal table.
Said manager Hans Britz: “Edwin lost his bout on points but still won a bronze medal for getting into the semi-finals. And Azinga Fuzile won his bout on points and will contest the finals on Wednesday.”
This code picked up its third and final medal of the Games, on this occasion in the mixed relay sprint event on the low-level Gaborone Dam.
Rosanne Bentley and Charles Brittain, younger brother to London Olympics gold medallist Matthew, pulled their way to silver, against Tunisia in the final.
Said team coach Tiago Loureiro: “Going into the Games if I was told we’d get three medals, I would have taken it!
“We beat Zimbabwe and Egypt in the relay heats this morning and then were beaten by Tunisia in the final.
“Rosanne started for us and beat their girl by six seconds. But the Tunisian guy was very strong and caught Charles Brittain early on and despite Charles holding him for most of the way, we ended up losing by about half a second.
“Our girls especially were very impressive here and the venue must surely have been the most spectacular of the Games.”
Earlier Amy Mattushek told the story of her gold medal in the singles skulls final on the previous day.
“I had a bad start and ‘caught a few crabs’ [when the paddle clips the top of the waves] but I got ahead and at halfway [250 of 500m] I was a bowball ahead, about 10 centimetres.
“The last bit she came back at me a bit but I still had a lead of about 1.5m. It’s a very cool feeling to get gold here and this event has been great experience for me.”
She’s already competed on the international scene more than once, and one of her highlights was the 2012 Under-16 World Championships where she got a full house of gold, silver and bronze.
Next up is the Junior World Championships in Hamburg, Germany in August.
Three of our players were in action on Monday and all emerged victorious.
First up was Richard Thongoana who beat Pieter Theron of Namibia in straight sets, 6-1 6-0.
“I’m happy with my game but I must still up my first service percentage and get a bit more energised,” said the Rivonia, Gauteng player.
He’s 14 years old and ranked eighth on the SA Under-16 rankings.
Next on court was Durbanville, Western Cape, player Kris van Wyk. He beat Mauritian Dylan Foo-Kune, also in straight sets, 6-2 6-4.
“I didn’t start very well and was very tense in the beginning,” he said. “But I served well and have now beaten him after losing to him in an ITF event in India previously.
His next opponent will be from either Nigeria or Botswana.
Last singles player, and on showcourt was Johannesburg’s Sarah Sarjoo.
In a marathon first set against Nigeria’s Elizabeth Pam there were more broken serves than the legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor had broken marriages.
Pam finally took the first set on a tiebreak 7-6 (8-6) but Sarjoo started playing more freely in the second set and went on to win the final two sets 6-4 6-3.
Said coach Patrick Tsunke: “She just lost concentration in that first set, then she just started playing her own game and eventually her opponent had no energy left.”
Sarjoo had little time to celebrate her victory as she teamed up with Thongoana to beat a combination from the host nation, 6-1 6-0 in the mixed doubles event.
Our young football side went down 3-0 to the powerful Nigerians┬á and now have a record of two draws (against Swaziland and Botswana ) and one loss.