By Mark Etheridge
Team South Africa’s tug-of-war representatives in the World Games currently underway in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan will be hoping the entire nation is pulling for them on Sunday (July 19).
South Africa only have a women’s side at the Games, which features the world’s top non-Olympic sports.
They’ll be competing indoors at the NSYSU Guo Guang School and in the 520kg category, meaning the eight competitors can’t weigh more than a combined 520kg.
There’s also a men’s outdoor category but South Africa didn’t qualify in this category
Manager Wanda Jonck says training has gone smoothly with just one minor injury till this point. “We’re sending Kobie Phillips back to the main hotel for treatment on her ankle but I don’t think it’s too serious.” Phillips is a medical technologist from Cape Town when she’s not on national duty.
The tug-of-war squad is nine meaning one athlete sits out the competition and in this case its Ayanda Ikaneng.
The format of the competition sees a round-robin section where SA will pull against┬á (in order) The Netherlands, Japan, hosts and world champions Chinese Taipei, Great Britain and the Ukraine.
“After the round robin, the top four sides go through to the semi-finals and then the top two from semis pull in the final,” explains Jonck. “Oviously Plan A is to make sure we get into the semi’s… there is no Plan B.”
The team will be anchored by Pretoria’s Katherine Mdhlovu. The anchors are the only competitors who are required to wear helmets due to safety concerns.
Jonck says training had gone smoothly and they were very fortunate to have some hometown knowledge.
“We trained in the hall of the Municipal Gu Shan Senior High School and their coach very kindly offered to help us. He’s been a huge help. We’ve been pulling against the kids who are only 16-17 years old but amazingly talented.
“Tug-of-war is a school subject here so the kids start tug-of-war from the age of nine. They are very privileged to be able to do that and it shows in their skill levels.”
Jonck and the rest of South Africa will be hoping their leaning curve will continue right through to the final.