By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
At 7.13pm on Friday evening the South African anthem rang out for the last time around the Complexe Nautique here at the African Games.
And when the ripples had flattened out in the brand-new pool Team SA could pat themselves on their bare backs for a job well done.
The team had combined superbly to bring in a total of 56 medals towards the national cause.
Twenty-four of them were gold, 19 silver and 11 bronze.
Nine of those 56 medals came on Friday’s sixth and last day of aquatics action – four gold, three silver and two bronzes.
The SA team’s total medal tally is 89 (34 gold, 32 silver and 23 bronze) with a week to go.
It was girl power that got the team’s first medal of the night, with Durban’s Rene Warnes powering to victory in the 200-metre butterfly final.
She clocked 2min 16.40sec for a comfortable win with teammate Vanessa Mohr coming sixth in 2:32.12.
‘I wasn’t really happy with my performances here,’ said Warnes who has represented SA on many an occasion. ‘I only swam two individual events, the 200m fly tonight and the 200m Individual Medley plus one relay.
‘My time tonight was five seconds outside of my personal best but I haven’t tapered at all and have swum straight through,’ she said.
She might not have been happy with her performance but the rest of her stay got the thumbs up. ‘The accommodation in the Athletes’ Village was great, way better than Maputo, Mozambique four years ago and there was a nice spirit in the team.’
Other golds went to Doug Erasmus in the 50m freestyle dash (22.61), Myles Brown in the 200m IM (2:01.71) and then the women’s 4×100 medley which had Jessica Ashley-Cooper, Tatjana Schoenmaker, Mohr and Karin Prinsloo in action and winning in 4:12.36.
Silvers went to Prinsloo in the 200m backstroke (2:14.31) won by the fast-turning Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe in 2:13.29, little Charlise Oberholzer (pictured above) in the gruelling 1500m free (17:11.34) and then the men’s 4×100 medley consisting of Ricky Ellis, Allaric Basson, Nico Meyer and Calvyn Justus doing duty to finish in 3:42.85 behind Egypt’s 3:42.55.
That was the final event of the competition after Prinsloo had won SA’s first medal (silver in the 100m free) in the first race last Sunday.
The evening’s bronze medals went to Ayrton Sweeney in the 200m IM (2:04.22) and Calvyn Justus in the 50m free (22.98).
Take your hat off to Oberholzer though. At just 16 she’s the youngest member of the team.
She’s the long-distance damsel of the women’s squad and swam the 800 and 1500m events. On Wednesday she got silver in the 800m freestyle in 9:00.15 and was again beaten by fellow teenager, Majda Chebaraka of Algeria on Friday night.
Trained by Durban’s Alisdair Hatfield the Grade 10 Durban Girls’ College swimmer says she’s had a great week.
‘It’s been a long week with the races and all the training but I wasn’t expecting a personal best tonight because I didn’t do a PB in my other race either. Tonight’s time was about two seconds slower than my best.
‘Tonight I thought I’d go out a bit harder and then maintain and that’s how it worked out. I could see Majda out of the corner of my eye for most of the race but just could’t catch her.’
Asked how she remembers how she ticks off the 30-lap event she says: ‘I don’t count lap for lap, I break it up into three chunks of 500m.’
And the experience of being part of Team SA.
‘It’s been great. This is my first senior tour outside of SA with the team and I’ve learnt a lot.
‘The team were great and the highlights will be the medals and all the great training. And the more senior girls also gave me some great tips on how to be more professional etc.
‘Now it’s back to training with long-term goal probably next year’s nationals.’
You can be sure that that big-hearted swimmer from Durban’s Bluff neighbourhood will be featuring strongly at those very nationals.
Out on the hot sand-courts at the beach volleyball competition there were victories for both the men’s and women’s sides.
The men’s side have now gone unbeaten in four matches and even though they are a brand new combination they are looking very good for a medal.
On Friday they beat Senegal in two sets 21-14 21-16.
After winning the first set in runaway style, Leo Williams had to do some running of another sort as he picked up stomach problems and had to dash off court.
Said fellow Capetonian and team-mate Clinton Stemmet: ‘The first set was definitely easier but with Leo’s problems we had to call a time out and then it became a bit harder.
‘They were a bit nervous in the first set but in the second we had to rely on our good defence (the best part of our game) to make it easier for us.
‘Leo made himself very big at the net so they were dumping a lot which played into our hands because I’m quick around the court.’
Next up are the quarter-finals for the boys.
Jessica Choga was on the other side of the arena to watch Palesa Masinga and Randy Williams take on Algeria in a women’s clash.
The women’s team Palesa Masinga and Randy Williams played their third match at the Sporte Complex.
The duo beat Algeria 24-22 in the first set and Algeria won the second set with a score of 21-19. They played the deciding third set and South Africa won narrowly with a score of 16-14.
Both Masinga and Williams shared the same sentiments.
It was our off match today, nothing was working for us. However we kept our composure and pulled through.’
‘The girls made many mistakes in this match. Their match was below standard from what they are normally capable of,’ said manager/coach Donovan Nair.
Saturday sees the girls entering the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile the table tennis moved into day two action out at the Revolution Centre.
And it was a case of win one, lose one for the SA girls.Playing their last pool matches they went down 3-0 to North African powerhouse Algeria.
But to their credit they bounced back to beat Djibouti by the same margin. They now play an as yet undecided opponent in Saturday’s quarter-final.