South Africa’s Rio Olympic hopefuls may be the best yet

The final team that will be going to the Olympics has been chosen, and we’re all expecting big things from the 137 athletes selected for one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

SASCOC CEO and chef de mission Tubby Reddy is one of the people who has high hopes for SA’s top athletes, saying that this year’s team is possibly the best selected.

The final teams were named on Thursday, with no real surprises. Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh head the swimming list. On the football front, Itumeleng Khune and Eric Mathoho have been called up to Owen da Gama’s team as the “overage” players. Veteran Blitzbok Frankie Horne failed to make the final Sevens squad, as did Springbok stalwart Bryan Habana.

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This is arguably the strongest team that has been sent to the games, with the 2012 crop bringing home six medals. Athletes like le Clos, van der Burgh, Caster Semenya and Sunette Viljoen are expected to repeat those performances in Rio. Sprinter, Wayde van Niekerk, who shot to fame after becoming world champion, has huge expectations for great success in a few weeks’ time.

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The 2016 target is eight to ten medals, and the teams will start leaving for the games from the 23rd of July.
Reddy says they are banking on a variety sporting codes to do the job.

“If you look at the different sport that we expecting the medals from there are about five or six federations (athletics, swimming, rowing, and triathlon); there is much more potential in this team than any other team that we have delivered before.”

Reddy says “four gold medals will be a good return.”

The Olympic body has set aside bonuses for athletes who bring home medals. For every gold medal won the athlete will receive R500, 000 of which R100, 000 will go to their coach. A silver will get athletes R200, 000 and R50, 000 to their coach, and a bronze medal is worth R80, 000 of which R20, 000 will be for the coach. The same goes for the Paralympians. Prize money for relay events will be shared amongst the team.

Reddy believes although this is an incentive, the medal will mean more to athletes.

“Incentives are always there. The biggest incentive is to win a medal anyway at the Olympic games. That in itself is an achievement but when there is some kind of support financially, I then suppose it motivates people a little more than just going there and winning a medal.”

Javelin star Sunette Viljoen and veteran long jumper Khotso Mokoena will make history as two of the few South Africans to participate in their fourth Olympic games.

Reddy says he admires athletes like them because it’s no easy feat.

“One has to recognise the effort that both of them have put in. When you think of Olympics games in a four-year cycle, to prepare for one is a huge effort and takes lots of sacrifices and to be doing it for four consecutive games, those are real milestones and that only comes out of dedication and the drive of the athletes.”

Featured image via Flickr