By Mark Etheridge
Team South Africa are bound for Botswana where they will take part in the 2nd African Youth Games which start in Gaborone later this week.
The team attended a holding camp in Boksburg on Monday for final preparation and briefing before departing by bus for Botswana and their base at the University of Botswana residences.
A total of 19 sporting codes will feature South African participation, ranging from aquatics through to weightlifting. A total of 21 sports will be contested during the competition which starts on 22 May and goes through till 31 May.
Fifty-four countries will be represented by roughly 2,500 athletes from the length and breadth of the continent.
The first African Youth Games were hosted by Rabat in Morocco but South Africa did not participate in the inaugural event.
The team were sent off at a farewell braai on Monday evening.
SASCOC President Gideon Sam also wished the team well on their sporting venture.
Sam told Road to Rio 2016: ÔÇ£These 2nd African Youth Games are another vital stepping stone for the up and coming talent of our sporting structures. Just as we have the African Union Sports Council Region Five Games in Zimbabwe later this year, these Games provide invaluable exposure in terms of competing against the continent’s best athletes.
It also exposes our young athletes to the experience of travelling to other countries and the accompanying logistics and challenges.
“For many of the athletes this will be their first time away from home and also the first time out the country. We invite you to savour the experience and use it positively as part of the building blocks in your sports career. Make sure you give your best for your country at all times and also make the most of the chance to interact with your African brothers and sisters.”
Team South Africa will take part in the following sporting codes: Athletics, aquatics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, fencing, football, golf, judo, karate, rowing, rugby sevens, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball and weightlifting.
The team will be led by Ms Ezera Tshabangu who assumes the position of Chef de Mission. She was also the Project Manager/Deputy Chef de Mission at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“It is a great honour to be tasked with leading a delegation of this size. My first involvement in the general team management of a multicode youth team was back in 2000 to the inaugural Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“This team is much bigger and all 54 African countries are expected to participate. We are already in Botswana and have done the final registration and entries for the team. We believe that our athletes will do well in their events, and that we will have a sizable number athletics qualifiers for the 2nd Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China later this year.
“To the team, I wish you the best in the Games and I believe you will all make us proud.”