By Mark Etheridge
Nanjing here we come … Team South Africa for the Youth Olympics in China had their official send-off in Johannesburg on Monday evening.
A team of 50 athletes will compete over a range of 14 different codes, ranging from athletics through to wrestling.
A good proportion of the team did duty in green and gold at the 2nd African Youth Games in Botswana recently, where they won more than 90 medals to end second on the medals table.
Before the farewell dinner the team were addressed by South Africa’s Young Ambassador Reabetswe Mpete who gave the team an idea of what the Youth Olympics are all about.
‘The 104 Young Ambassadors spread the YOG spirit and inspire others to embrace the YOG journey.
‘Our job is to help develop you as athletes and people, and empower you to be role models and share the same vision.
‘Its not only about sport … there is also a very important Culture and Education programme. You’ll learn about music for stress relief and aligned with tai chi, and also learn about the eco-friendly agricultural programme. You’ll also get the chance to see the lotus flower that we planted on behalf of South Africa when we were last here. There is also a South African brick (made in line with ancient tradition) that will be included in the Sports Musuem.’
The Games get underway on Saturday, 16 August and continue through to 28 August. The flagbearer for Team South Africa will be artistic gymnast Muhammad Khaalid Mia, pictured with story.
The 15-year-old Constantia Kloof (West Rand) pupil was named as flagbearer by project manager Ms Ezera Tshabangu.
‘I didn’t have a clue before tonight,’ he grinned. ‘It’s a big honour, my biggest honour yet but I won’t let the pressure get to me. I don’t really feel that sort of pressure.’
One team member already under another sort of pressure comes in the shape of wrestler Elbert Steyn. Before the farewell dinner he sported a right ear that looked like a giant cauliflower and at the dinner was tightly strapped up.
‘It’s just one of those things that happen in wrestling,’ said the Limpopo athlete. ‘It happened this morning when I was training with my clubmates. I had it drained by the doctor and it was damned sore.
‘It won’t be 100% by the time I compete but that won’t stop me. I’ll just have to make sure it’s strapped up tightly.’