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Team SA’s medal hunt off to good start in Botswana

By Mark Etheridge

As the sun set on a golden Gaborone sky, Team South Africa’s gold medal haul started to rise on the second day of the 2nd African Youth Games here in Botswana on Friday.

Team South Africa now have seven medals, six from swimming and one from weightlifting.

And fittingly it was flagbearer Tatjana Schoenmaker who swam her way to South Africa’s first gold medal of the Games when she won the 50-metre breaststroke final in a time of 32.54 seconds at the University of Botswana pool.

It was a good day in the pool for this traditionally powerful code of SA youth sport and five more medals came South Africa’s way.

Said 16-year-old Schoenmaker, a Grade 11 pupil at Tuks Sports School and now coached by Wayne Riddin: “It’s a great start to the Games for me, carrying the flag and then winning my first race. Going into these Games I’ve been hoping to try and win six medals.”

Well, another one came her way in the final race of the evening, the 4x50m freestyle relay where she brought the combo of twin brothers Alaric Basson and Alard Basson and Rita Naude home to win silver in  1min 43.76sec.

There was also a gold medal for Alaric, in action right, in the 100m breaststroke final (1:04.03).

The other three pool medals went the way of Daniel Ronaldson, who had the honour of winning Team SA’s first medal of the games, silver, in the 400m freestyle; Bryan Gray (gold: 100m backstroke in 56.90) and Naude (silver: 100m backstroke in 1:04.77).

Swim coach Grant Kritzinger summed up the first of four days’ swimming action: “I’m happy, a good start to the competition. I would have liked seven medals from our seven finals but I’ll take six.

“Our team goal going into the competition is 30 and I think the schedule favours us as we go along and move on to the 200m events etc.”

In terms of who had the best performance on the day, Kritzinger said: “All our gold medal winners were great but if I had to single one out it would probably be Alaric’s win.”

The swimmers went into the competition after competing at the Nationals, then taking a week’s break and resuming training three weeks ago.

There was another gold medal for South Africa in the weightlifting code where Kaylynn Kloppers topped the podium.

She competed in the 48kg division. Said coach Ziyanda Mjezu as her charge, who comes from Eerste River near Cape Town, prepared for the medal parade: “She’s very happy with both her lifting and her win.

“Her snatch was 48kg and her clean and jerk 50kg, making for a total of 92kg, about 3kg outside her best.

“The competition was delayed for about 30 minutes but once it started it went very smoothly. She beat girls from Ghana and Morocco.”

Earlier our rugby sevens side, as was expected, cruised into the semi-finals of their code at the UB stadium.

They had a walkover in the first round as the Ivory Coast team never pitched up and they then beat Kenya, probably one of their strongest rivals.

But their East African rivals failed to register a point as SA cruised to a 31-0 win. It was Edwill van der Merwe who was the star as he powered his way to three of the six SA tries.

Later the South Africans made mince meat of the Madagascans as they ran up an even bigger score of 52-0 and this time it was Edwin Keyter who had a hat trick of tries as the youngsters crossed eight times.

They now face northern neighbours Namibia in Saturday’s semi-final.

Said manager and former Blitzbok seniors player Marius Schoeman: “To be honest I expected a bit more from Kenya but credit must go to our coaching staff etc.

“The guys, all Under-18, have only had four sessions together before this and they’ve adapted very quickly.

“This game is all about defence and I’d actually rather have a game where we keep our opponents scoreless than score 10 tries ourselves.”

On the badminton courts our team built on their 5-0 win against Ghana on Thursday with another 5-0 whitewash of Seychelles.

Picture: Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA