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Controlling destiny…

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Saturday November 12, 2011

South Africa is blessed with an abundance of young sporting talent. But it’s going to take more than potential to represent the country at the highest levels.

Whether it’s soccer, rugby, swimming, wrestling or even sailing – we have plenty of youngsters competing in most sporting codes at national and international level. All of them have dreams of representing South Africa as a senior athlete one day, but the reality is that not all of them will.

So who or what determines the fate of these teenage hopefuls? The respective sporting bodies have a crucial role to play in terms of providing the necessary tournament opportunities for experience and the needed financial backing, whether it’s internal funding or sponsorship dependent, for training and travel. However, the buck doesn’t stop there.

The athletes (yes, I’m speaking to you) have the duty to not only fulfill their potential, but to show the right attitude and commitment to learn, grow and excel. They also have the control to make their own career choices, which sets their path for their futures.

I’ll give you an example of a youngster who won’t make it. I had an interview with one of our top fighters at the recent World Junior Judo Championship held in Cape Town – the first international judo competition hosted by South Africa. Being one of our more talented judo prospects, he complained about the lack of opportunities and sponsorships and praised the experience he gained at the tournament. He also believed he was passionate about the sport and suggested several solutions on how South African judo can one day compete with the best in the world.

I then asked him about the chance of representing South Africa at the 2016 Rio Games. ‘Yeah, it’s a dream, but I don’t know,’ he responded pessimistically to my surprise. ‘I want to finish school and study, I guess that’s my priority.’

With that kind of attitude, what company will want to invest in you? Sponsors want success, but also clients who want to make a difference in their field. You can argue he’s being a realist – but it takes ambition and desire to make your dreams come true.

One youngster who has done so and is reaping the benefits is swimming sensation Chad le Clos. While some will say that talent like his doesn’t come everyday, the fact is that his will to be the best was the telling factor in his rise that peaked from 2010.

His coach Graham Hill recalls:  ‘What makes Chad special is his attitude and commitment, which I first saw at one of his junior competitions. It was a cold, rainy evening in Johannesburg and there was one final race left. Most of those swimmers were tired after a long day and didn’t want to swim in the unpleasant conditions. But Chad didn’t complain. He wanted to compete and was hungry to win. That’s the kind of attitude swimmers need to have if they want to be successful.’

A then 17-year-old Le Clos was disappointed with his armful of medals (one gold, three silver and one bronze) picked up at the Youth Games in Singapore last year. ‘I could’ve won more gold,’ he told me before the Commonwealth Games. That determination saw him win five medals (two gold) in Delhi.

In 2011, he won seven medals (six gold) at the All Africa Games and has collected 22 gold medals during the current World Cup series, as well as six silvers and two bronzes. He also beat 2008 American Olympic hero Michael Phelps in Moscow.

Another young role model to look up to is soccer wunderkind Thulani Serero, who made a bold decision as a 14-year-old to leave SuperSport United’s junior ranks and focus on his development at Ajax Cape Town. He left his family and life behind in Soweto to focus on his dream in a city relatively unknown to him. Seven years later, he finds himself with a contract at one of Europe’s top clubs Ajax Amsterdam.

Those two young guns are likely to represent South Africa at the Olympics next year, but London will be a step too soon for many other youngsters. Their time will come at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the 2016 Rio Games.

While our sporting administrators will have an important role in guiding these juniors to national selection, the athletes have to realise that they have to earn the right to don the green and gold of South Africa. And it takes the attitude of Le Clos and the sacrifices of Serero to get there.

Their destiny lies in their hands.



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Written by Gareth Duncan

Duncan is a junior staff writer at Highbury Safika Media and was part of the administrative team at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games


More columns
  • Controlling destiny�. […]

    South Africa is blessed with an abundance of young sporting talent. But it’s going to take more than potential to represent the country at the highest levels.

    Whether it’s soccer, rugby, swimming, wrestling or even sailing – we have plenty of youngsters competing in most sporting codes at national and international level. All of them have dreams of representing South Africa as a senior athlete one day, but the reality is that not all of them will.

    So who or what determines the fate of these teenage hopefuls? The respective sporting bodies have a crucial role to play in terms of providing the necessary tournament opportunities for experience and the needed financial backing, whether it’s internal funding or sponsorship dependent, for training and travel. However, the buck doesn’t stop there.

    The athletes (yes, I’m speaking to you) have the duty to not only fulfill their potential, but to show the right attitude and commitment to learn, grow and excel. They also have the control to make their own career choices, which sets their path for their futures.

    I’ll give you an example of a youngster who won’t make it. I had an interview with one of our top fighters at the recent World Junior Judo Championship held in Cape Town – the first international judo competition hosted by South Africa. Being one of our more talented judo prospects, he complained about the lack of opportunities and sponsorships and praised the experience he gained at the tournament. He also believed he was passionate about the sport and suggested several solutions on how South African judo can one day compete with the best in the world.

    I then asked him about the chance of representing South Africa at the 2016 Rio Games. ‘Yeah, it’s a dream, but I don’t know,’ he responded pessimistically to my surprise. ‘I want to finish school and study, I guess that’s my priority.’

    With that kind of attitude, what company will want to invest in you? Sponsors want success, but also clients who want to make a difference in their field. You can argue he’s being a realist – but it takes ambition and desire to make your dreams come true.

    One youngster who has done so and is reaping the benefits is swimming sensation Chad le Clos. While some will say that talent like his doesn’t come everyday, the fact is that his will to be the best was the telling factor in his rise that peaked from 2010.

    His coach Graham Hill recalls:  ‘What makes Chad special is his attitude and commitment, which I first saw at one of his junior competitions. It was a cold, rainy evening in Johannesburg and there was one final race left. Most of those swimmers were tired after a long day and didn’t want to swim in the unpleasant conditions. But Chad didn’t complain. He wanted to compete and was hungry to win. That’s the kind of attitude swimmers need to have if they want to be successful.’

    A then 17-year-old Le Clos was disappointed with his armful of medals (one gold, three silver and one bronze) picked up at the Youth Games in Singapore last year. ‘I could’ve won more gold,’ he told me before the Commonwealth Games. That determination saw him win five medals (two gold) in Delhi.

    In 2011, he won seven medals (six gold) at the All Africa Games and has collected 22 gold medals during the current World Cup series, as well as six silvers and two bronzes. He also beat 2008 American Olympic hero Michael Phelps in Moscow.

    Another young role model to look up to is soccer wunderkind Thulani Serero, who made a bold decision as a 14-year-old to leave SuperSport United’s junior ranks and focus on his development at Ajax Cape Town. He left his family and life behind in Soweto to focus on his dream in a city relatively unknown to him. Seven years later, he finds himself with a contract at one of Europe’s top clubs Ajax Amsterdam.

    Those two young guns are likely to represent South Africa at the Olympics next year, but London will be a step too soon for many other youngsters. Their time will come at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the 2016 Rio Games.

    While our sporting administrators will have an important role in guiding these juniors to national selection, the athletes have to realise that they have to earn the right to don the green and gold of South Africa. And it takes the attitude of Le Clos and the sacrifices of Serero to get there.

    Their destiny lies in their hands.

  • Grabbing opportuniti. […]

    The recent spate of deaths in the sporting world are a stark reminder of just how frail a thing the human body is and just how fleeting a sporting career can be.

    It only takes a split-second to destroy a dream that was months and in many cases even years in the making.

    Take the five joggers who were tragically killed by a motorist in an early-morning training run in Midrand recently. On Sunday they should have been lining up for the popular annual Soweto Marathon – instead their families, loved ones, worked associates are left in mourning. A number of our sports men and women have had close shaves with cars while out training this year.

    Olympic 1500m track finalist Juan van Deventer is still in recovery mode after being hit while out training in Ruimsig, Johannesburg. And road star and multiple SA champion Irvette van Blerk is expecting to make her marathon debut at the same Soweto Marathon that now has five less entrants lining up.

    Van Blerk was herself the victim of a near miss while out training in Krugersdorp one morning and bumped by a car. Thankfully her injuries weren’t as traumatic as Van Deventer’s.

    It’s not only runners who are affected – earlier this year our extremely promising road cyclist Carla Swart died after being hit by a truck while out training. And surfer Heather Clark, recently in action in a masters event in South America, was badly injured in a Port Shepstone car accident two years ago when hit by an allegedly drunk driver while driving home from a friend.

    Internationally the Grim Reaper has been busy on the motor circuit as well. Two high profile motorsport aces both died in recent weeks, first British Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in a Las Vegas competition and then Italian MotoGP racer Marco Simoncelli in the Malaysian grand prix.

    Bottom line of this maudlin matter is that it takes just a few seconds to dash a dream.

    Our sportsmen and women would do well to take heed. Apart from only a handful of people blessed with the natural talent to achieve at the very highest level, so, so few sportsmen get the chance to live the sporting dream due to lack of finances etc.

    SASCOC’s OPEX high performance programme for the 20120 Olympics and beyond has allowed our top Olympians the chance to live their sporting dream. It’s tragic instances like the ones mentioned above that should serve as a reminder that it could all change in a heartbeat.

    Let them embrace that dream and live it to the fullest… it is a rare and blessed opportunity that they have been given. Run with it.

  • Kiwis got it spot-on. […]

    There is more to hosting a successful tournament than just the bottom line. There is more than just the checking of slips, the counting of receipts, the crash of the cash register.

    A successful tournament is more than this, despite Fifa and the International Rugby Board demanding guarantees of revenue that have to be met by governments.

    A sports event is dependent on the people and the athletes; it is judged by how much joy it brought and the memories it leaves.

    The 2011 Rugby World Cup may just have been the best tournament I have covered in the last five years, and that includes the football World Cup here last year. It was the people who made it. Their overwhelming enthusiasm for hosting the thing blew everyone away.

    This was rugby country and the sport has never felt more at home or in the right place at the right time. From our landing in Auckland to the day we were called home after the Springboks lost the quarter-final to Bryce Lawrence, we were treated like royalty.

    As media, we were spoilt rotten by Jo Heaton and her team at Wellington Tourism. One day I walked into the Les Mills gym in Taranaki Street in Wellington and asked how much it would cost to join for two weeks. The sales lady was having none of it and gave me free membership for my time in the capital city. The same happened in Taupo, were we were allowed free use of the town’s gym.

    And all the time, we spoke rugby, rugby and more rugby.

    Open your mouth, speak in a South African accent and you were guaranteed a 20-minute chat about the Springboks and how the Kiwis respected them. After the quarter-final New Zealanders could not stop apologising to us for the non-performance by Lawrence. They were sad to see us go, perhaps because they thought they might have an easier go against the Boks than the Wallabies, but mainly because it stung them that one of their own had been so incompetent. There is a pride in everything rugby in New Zealand.

    On the day the Springboks played Fiji at the Cake Tin (renamed the Wellington Regional Stadium) I walked into a barber shop called Custom Cuts. The barber was a man called Brendan Blake. His grandfather was an All Black called Kiwi Blake, who had been denied going on a tour to South Africa after the war because his grandfather was a “quarter negro”.

    He gave me a great haircut, but an even better story, passing me a clipping to read as he snipped away. “They said he was tough on the field,” said Brendan, “he was ruthless. When he looked after us there was no messing around. We kept quiet.”

    IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said the tournament was “extraordinary”.

    “This World Cup has served to remind us how much New Zealand has brought to world rugby,” said Lapasset. “And it has shown New Zealand’s strength and its capacity to organise such an international event. You have heritage, you have culture in New Zealand… tradition. And we saw throughout the importance of the Maori culture and integration.

    “You only have to wander around…see the excitement and how this country has embraced Rugby World Cup 2011,” said former England captain and IRB vice-chairman Bill Beaumont. “Everyone who has come to New Zealand and the World Cup, from the big wigs to the fans, have been treated specially.”

    We were, and we thank you, New Zealand. You did well. So well.

  • Spreading the word�. […]

    This is one of those topics which always seem to have 101 opinions as to what the roles are between media and sport. And there are a number of facets to it.

    The media’s traditional role is to report the facts and inform the public of what is happening be it in the world of sport, commerce, entertainment or politics. Seeing as this a sporting website, lets focus on the relationship between the media and sports in South Africa.

    Media need to report the facts. There are two ways of doing this, investigative journalism and using information disseminated by Federations, athletes, manager coaches etc. The better the sport at getting information out, the higher the profile they get in the media and by extension in the public and corporate world. The latter of course being crucial to attracting sponsors.

    In the past we had media houses that had dedicated journalists for virtually all sporting codes. With ever tightening budgets, the media houses have all focused their attention more on those sporting codes that attract the masses. Remember that a media house has the responsibility of bringing the news, but they also need to be aware of cost factors and keeping journalists on a payroll who cover, what in this country are called minor sports, is just not feasible anymore.

    This is the reason why they focus on the big three in SA, Soccer, Cricket and Rugby. That way they too attract advertisers and are able to run their business. I’m not going to go into the right or wrong of this situation as that is a different topic all together. Lets just accept that status quo for the purpose of this article.

    This does create a dilemma for the “minor sports” as expertise has been lost at the media houses. I remember in the late 90’s, the Cape Argus had specialist athletics and road running writers, a swimming journalist and even cycling journalists on their payroll. No more.

    So where does that leave these so called minor sporting codes? Well quite frankly they need to generate their own publicity, and very often the Federations do not know how to go about that, as it isn’t really their forte is it? That is not an indictment on the Federations, but they really do need to learn very quickly how to get more publicity – and that does come at a cost. Something that the Federations tend to struggle with. To get publicity you need to employ someone who does that kind of thing for a living, but as I said, they do not come cheap.

    Swimming SA have done that by employing a PR Company, Cycling SA have also employed someone to get as much publicity as possible. Athletics South Africa have employed a junior media assistant with a view to grow that person and make use of an independent media consultant to make sure the message they want to portray is getting sent out.

    To all intents and purposes this is working as a number of media houses have provided feedback saying that they are overjoyed in the news coming out of the Federation, news relating to the sport, not the politics around the sport – and lets face it, there has been a lot of that.

    So in essence, the smaller sports need to nurture a relationship with the media to get out their information. The big three already do that very well, they do have the resources at their disposal though. The challenge for the smaller sporting codes is to find that budget to invest in PR in order to attract more sponsors into their sport.

  • True African grit…

    Dust, dirt, dedication, determination, discipline and most importantly of all delivery sums up the 10th All Africa Games that have just concluded in Maputo, Mozambique.

    All Africa Games usually present a unique challenge to the continent’s sports stars and these Games were no different. To the host nation’s credit though they gave it their all after having only taking up delivery of the games two years ago when original host nation Zambia dropped the ball, saying they were unable to honour their hosting pledge

    When the final buses ferrying Team South Africa back to Maputo Aeroporto saw the Estadio Nacional receding in their rearview mirrors, construction workers were still slaving away on the stadium surrounds.

    So it had been with some trepidation that Team South Africa arrived in the dustbowl that was the surroundings of the stadium and Athletes’ Village. As was the case at Commonwealth Games, India, the living quarters were certainly adequate and brand spanking new. It was just the little things. The condo’s had brand new beds, bedding etc but that was it… nary a table or chair in sight, let alone furniture. At one stage trucks laden with fridges and microwave ovens were spotted in one of the roads in the village but they never got to the SA delegation.

    To their credit, this SA team were made of stern stuff and didn’t complain unduly. Although they had every right to… especially the two swimmers whose room suddenly turned into something of a horror movie with sewerage gunge seeping up from underneath the floorboards. Still they went about their jobs, which was to win medals. And who was helping mop up the muck and clean things up but swimming manager Queeneth Ndlovu. Yes, this team stuck together!

    Of matters cleaning, many of the team were cleaned out in terms of possessions in the early days as they settled in. Many members of the team management had US dollars and South African rand nicked out of wallets, purses and handbags while athletes lost iPods and cell phones as they gullibly trusted cleaning staff amongst their possessions.

    It wasn’t only money that was on the shopping list. The resident media team were woken in the early hours by two Ivory Coast team-members looking for accommodation. They were told in no uncertain terms that these was Team South Africa’s quarters. But it didn’t stop there as a few hours later they awoke to what seemed the entire Cape Verde team in their faces, demanding that the rooms were theirs. It doesn’t make it easier when one of the Cape Verde basketball players stands 2.20 metres tall in his socks!

    Cameroon also objected to South Africa taking “their” rooms. Their response? To make as much noise as possible outside the SA quarters at all hours of the day and night. Our triathletes and cyclists, those most affected, deserve double the medals they went on to win after such manner of sleep deprivation.

    Dedication belonged to the SASCOC management team who were normally in the operations office before 7am and often after 10pm and ditto to the medical staff.

    Determination belonged to the likes of Chanel Simmonds who, after spending a night as sick as the proverbial dog, still went on court to try and win another medal for South Africa… determination to fellow tennis player Natasha Fourouclas who was seen sitting in the dustbowl courtyard outside her quarters, nose buried in geography studies she needed for school exams, determination by judoka Patrick Trezise who bravely fought on with a dislocated finger, determination to our para-athletes whose competition schedules were shuffled so much by organisers that it almost seemed a deliberate ploy to upset the para-competitors.

    Discipline to the many athletes who ate late or had to wait for transport longer than normal because of their African neighbors’ lack of etiquette as they jumped or forced their way into the lengthy queues with little disregard for their fellow athletes.

    Even the water dried up in the village on at least three occasions, making a dry sense of humour the best alternative.

    But one thing that never dried up was the medal-flood. When Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe blew time at the end of the men’s soccer finals the South African medal count stood at 157 medals, with no other country able to hit the three-figure mark.

    Victory usually comes with a cost and this team will be able to look back at the Games knowing that they made a lot of sacrifices in order to get to that position as asked for by SASCOC President Gideon Sam. Yes, they delivered the victory and with panache.

    Sam can be rightfully proud of this team that kicked true African butt. Take a bow all of you!

  • Quest for zero defec. […]

    Self-belief and the quest for zero defects were the crucial factors that would ensure that the unbelievable Novak Djokovic retains the number one position on the world ranking and stays on course to complete a career Grand Slam.

    Djokovic has just become the sixth champion in the Open era to win three Grand Slam singles titles in a single year after beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the US Open.

    John McEnroe, who completed a 82-3 win/loss-record in 1984, said Djokovic’s 64-2-record for 2011 is superior to his. In fact, Mac says Djokovic’s run in 2011 has been the most memorable by any male in the history of tennis.

    Not only did Djokovic win three Grand Slam-titles, but he also beat Nadal six times – all in finals – in 2011, and defeated Roger Federer twice in Grand Slams on his way to the Australian Open – and US Open title.

    A former coach of Andre Agassi, Nick Bollettieri, has described Djokovic as the most complete player of all time. “Strength, speed, technique – no one has ever had such a package like Djokovic,” he said. “And the main reason why he was so strong, is certainly his new training program, including his diet and eating habits,” he said on the Djokovic-website.

    Djokovic decided on a gluten-free diet last year, and it turned an admirable tennis athlete into a great one.

    Is Djokovic better because the gluten allergy was affecting him physically or is he better because he improved his diet in general? It’s a chicken and egg question.

    Though as a Cornell nutrition professor said, the effects of the new diet could be more mental than anything. “If you believe in a cause of your disorder, it becomes the cause,” David Levitsky said to www.sports.yahoo.com. “We see this in many different studies. If you believe it, you change your behaviour in the direction of being cured.”

    Djokovic spoke about the change earlier this year. “I have lost some weight but it’s only helped me because my movement is much sharper now and I feel great physically,” he said.

    The gluten-free diet didn’t turn Djokovic into a great tennis player. He was a Grand Slam champion and No3 in the world while eating the protein.

    The change may have turned him into a greater, fitter tennis player or it may have simply made him believe he was a greater, fitter tennis player. And, really, isn’t that the same thing, argued www.sports.yahoo.com.

    Interestingly enough, that belief is a critical element in the remarkable year of Djokovic.

    In 2010, he was down by two sets to love against his compatriot Viktor Troicki in the first round of the US Open.  He won that match and went through to the final event, where Nadal proved to be his undoing. But he credits that fight back against Troicki as the match that triggered his resurrection.

    Many sport philosophers have argued about the X-factor that determines excellence.

    Malcolm Gladwell spoke about the 10 000 hour-rule in his book Outliers. He quotes the neurologist David
    Levitin who argued that 10 000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything.

    Sean Fitzpatrick, a former All Black captain, said he spent hours on the pitch after New Zealand training had officially finished, practising his line-out throws, sometimes blindfolding himself to make it a little bit tougher, he said in his book, Winning Matters.

    But what happens when two players spent equal time in working hard and getting better? Mats Wilander, a former top ranked player in the world and Sweden’s natural successor to Bjorn Borg, said the first two sets in the semi-final at the US Open between Roger Federer and Djokovic were the best he had ever seen played by Federer.

    Federer, he says, is still the best player of all time and he is playing his best tennis ever.

    The difference, though, is that his two greatest rivals, Djokovic and Nadal, are playing at a much higher level than the rivals he (Federer) was beating when he was scooping up grand slams at will, Wilander told Reuters.

    But what is the defining quality, the one that will keep Djokovic at the top of the tree as the number-one ranked player in the world who keeps on defying the odds and the opposition? It is self-belief and the quest for zero defects.

    It is clear that if Djokovic does not keep on improving, and does not retain his self-belief, Nadal and Federer might still supplant him at the top of the world-order.

    It will be easy for Djokovic to retain his self-belief, but injuries and one or two sloppy losses might still change that.

  • The future is bright. […]

    As many positives as South Africa will take from a stunning effort at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, the biggest plus is the bright future we face ahead of next year’s London Olympics.

    When SASCOC president Gideon Sam said after a shocking performance in Beijing in 2008 that they wanted 12 medals in London, the response he received was little more than a scoff.

    Sam must be smiling from ear to ear. With athletes, swimmers and bowlers ready to rake in the medals, the figure 12 no longer seems the pipe dream it once was.

    Even in the wake of Khotso Mokoena’s shock early exit, there remains huge potential for South Africa in the long jump discipline, with Luvo Manyonga making the step up from talented junior to accomplished senior.

    Manyonga and Cornel Fredericks, the pretender to LJ van Zyl’s 400m hurdles throne, both shone in Daegu, and their fifth place finishes may give more hope even than the four medals we won.

    As for Mokoena, he’ll beat himself up, but he will know he wasn’t in his best form this season. He will focus now on next year’s Games, and if he gets it right, which he usually does, he’ll make up for his Daegu disappointment.

    Elsewhere, Caster Semenya showed her best form since she won the world title in Berlin two years ago, indicating that she has come full circle and has brushed off a gender controversy that threatened to lose her from the sport for good.

    For all the negative press she received on the eve of the championships, allegedly missing training sessions and generally just losing the plot, she pulled through nicely in the 800m semis and the final.

    Her biggest weakness remains her blatant lack of tactical nous. She started far too slowly in the final, leaving herself too much work to do on the top bend on the final lap, and had no legs left when Russian Mariya Savinova stormed past.

    Semenya, like Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, runs best from the front. She needs to rid herself of fears that she starts too fast and forget traditional tactics which suggest it’s best to sit back for the first lap.

    If Semenya learns to take the race out and run hard from the start, she will be the outright favourite for gold in London, and a world record will be on the cards in the near future.

    Sunette Viljoen is still only 27, relatively young for a javelin thrower, and has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years.

    Viljoen will be delighted with her bronze medal, and her new African record to boot, but she will do herself no justice if she does not aim higher in London. She certainly has the ability, and she has proved repeatedly she knows how to peak for championship events.

    Van Zyl finally came good at the global championships, and although he was probably worth more than a bronze, you simply can’t fault a medallist.

    Next year he will need to try and peak twice again, which he managed so well this season, but in 2012 the focus must be on the latter half of the season, and not the first few months.

    His ability as a flat sprinter also gives real hope for the 4x400m relay team, which produced a magnificent performance in Daegu.

    If the selectors learn how to do their jobs properly, and don’t drop their second best sprinter for the final, a repeat performance in London is likely.

    Oscar Pistorius was clearly bitter about being left out, and although the selectors will have had their reasons, he must run the final in London.

    If not, we may not have the depth to bag another medal, and that would be a waste of a chance to give the rest of us one more reason to believe that Sam’s prediction was not so ridiculous after all.

    We won’t get 12 medals in London, let’s be honest, but we’ll sure as hell get more than one. Our athletes and our swimmers will come good and redeem themselves from the failure in Beijing.

    With less than a year to go before the Games, it’s time for all South Africans to get behind the team across all sports and disciplines.

    They have earned our support.

  • Africa calling…

    Ola from Bloco 12 Edificio 2 Casa 4 in the Zimpeto Athetes’ Village at X Jogos Africanos, Maputo 2011.

    Or simply, hello from the athletes village at the 10th All Africa Games in Mozambique to keep it simple.

    SASCOC President Gideon Sam, CEO Tubby Reddy and even Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula warned of the “challenges” facing Team South Africa at the Games. This in the light of some pretty testing expeditions in Africa at previous sporting events.

    Challenges? So far the most challenging aspect has been the choice of what to eat at the sprawling dinner complex next to the village. Their’s an old airlines mantra that used to be dished out by cabin attendants on our national carrier in years go by: “Chicken or fish, chicken or fish…”

    Well, on Tuesday night athletes didn’t have to choose, they could have both. They could also have savoury rice, pap, gravy, cabbage and potatoes, mixed vegetables, pasta, green salad, fresh bread rolls and more. There was also dessert, cans of beverages, bottled water and suprisingly decent coffee.

    Accommodation at the village is perfectly adequate, just-completed apartment blocks with clusters of three rooms with main en-suite, kitchenettes, smart wooden floors and balconies with brand new beds, linen etc and all-importantly, electricity. Sure, there’s no chairs and tables yet but that is expected to arrive shortly.

    The village, much like Commonwealth Games in India, is a work in progress and although somewhat dusty, workers and cleaning contractors from Clean Africa are scurrying around sweeping and tidying, cleaning windows etc.

    There was hot water to be had from brand new geysers and although the water supply suddenly dried up late on Tuesday the local technicians were applying themselves to the problem with some enthusiasm.

    Certainly all of the athletes I’ve spoken to are more than happy with things so far, and many of them have experienced some truly horrendous trips into Africa down the years.

    No, at this stage if Team South Africa have any “challenges” it may well be keeping our boxers away from the food hall and within the legal weight limit before Team South Africa’s fight for medals begins…

  • SA’s best export i. […]

    Who is South Africa’s most valuable sporting export?

    I’m sure there will be votes for Ernie Els, Lucas Radebe and John Smit.

    For my money it’s Oscar Pistorius, the so-called ‘Blade Runner’. South Africans have no idea how popular he is overseas, both for his remarkable story and his personality. Young, fun, dynamic, successful and articulate, Pistorius ticks all the boxes.

    So do the others, but Pistorius is a global phenomenon. Indeed, anyone who can charm New York’s Madison Avenue has a whole lot going for him.

    Pistorius will be thrust into the public glare from this week at the world athletics championships in Daegu, South Korea.

    Most 24-year-olds would be daunted by the focus of the world of them. Then again, Pistorius is unlike any other 24-year-old. He is worldly and sassy, the embodiment of the modern sportsman.

    Against this backdrop, however, is the constant sniping and criticism, not least because it seems he will be on the plane to London 2012 to compete in the able-bodied Olympics.

    It’s well-known that Pistorius jumped through hoops to come this far. The scientists and the lawyers had a field day. Finally, he was exonerated.

    ‘Go run,’ the courts told him. And so he has, spectacularly so.

    There is nothing new to latest attempts to blackball his participation. Not to say it is flawed, but it is old science re-hashed. The simmering anger stems from the belief that Pistorius pulled a fast one. Too bad. He had his day in court and he won. Move on.

    Pistorius is a smart cat, too. Despite his youth, he has waged a charming PR campaign. He has been rolled out at London’s Olympic Park, has his face peering down on Times Square and is the face of Thierry Mugler, no less.

    He treats the press like gold. They all love him.

    I can’t even begin to imagine how he has helped empower other disabled athletes. While society at large typically deals with different people awkwardly, Pistorius demands that he be seen purely as an athlete. Regard him for his speed and his ability rather than his physical differences.

    I like the view of British 400m athlete Martyn Rooney, who says the only athletes who complain about Pistorius are the ones nervous of being beaten by him. Of course they forget that if they worked harder, they could beat him. It’s much the same with Caster Semenya.

    I’m hoping we can get to the point where Pistorius is able to run without constantly being second-guessed.

    I’m not completely ignorant to the arguments posed by the scientists and technical experts, but I’ll freely admit that I look at Pistorius through a softer prism.

    South Africa cannot boast many sporting icons – those who transcend sport through their excellence and resonate among a broader audience – and we need heroes like Pistorius. He brings the feel-good factor to sport and, at times, he almost allows us to live vicariously through his shining example.

    Just let him run, I say.

  • Imagine just sport�. […]

    Imagine Beatles legend John Lennon coming back and being asked to pen a song summing up the South African sports scene. Imagine a world of sport where nothing mattered other than the quest to be the very best in your chosen code whether it be as a sportsman or as an administrator – because both are equally important.

    Should Lennon have tried to gauge SA sport he would have a tough time because if the truth be told the sing that SA sport generally sings is woefully off-key.

    There can be little doubt that the SA sport scene is an unhappy family. First up hardly a day goes by without the dreaded “quota” word coming up and like it or not  the pro-against quota format is never going to be resolved happily one way or another.

    Television commentator Makhaya Jack was the latest to add to the quota merry-go-round by glibly suggesting that SA rugby should be 60% black. Where exactly that number comes from, it’s anyone’s guess.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to imagine, again, a simple world where everyone had the same opportunities from the get-go and the cream naturally rises to the top, whether it’s white cream, green cream or black cream.

    As a country we need to work tirelessly at creating sporting opportunity for all but in that scenario there would be no argument at the top level. Thankfully, when it comes to the very  highest levels of the sport in our country it would seem that the merit-is-best holds sway for now. Imagine a 40% white team going to represent the Springboks at next month’s Rugby World Cup.

    Sure, the politicians may be pleased although that in itself is a misnomer but you can be guaranteed that at least some of those 60% non-white complement would be pretty unhappy at knowing that they weren’t the best man for the job. Or would they?

    Surely again wouldn’t 100% of our sportsmen and women want to know they were in the team 100% because of their ability to do the job?

    Even in administration our sport seems to get involved in scandal after tiff after altercation after controversy.

    If it’s not outrage over bonuses in cricket, cries that our swimming administration is not 100% behind all the swimmers etc, it’s feuding powerboat factions, suspended squash and equine federations over governance issues, or growing pains in the newly formed Athletics South Africa leadership structure. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Whatever happened to the old days (make that present day in much of the rest of the modern-day sporting world) where the sports stars took the glory and administrators were sometimes seen but rarely heard.

    Yes it may have been in a divided world of black and white back then but one can recall the old administration at the former athletics governing body of South Africa, the SAAAU.

    That acronym stood for South African AMATEUR Athletics Union and I stress the word Amateur.

    These officials by and large devoted themselves to the sport for their sheer love of the sport and not for any financial gains. They gave freely of their time and expertise through rain and sunshine and around the clock. These days it would seem that more and more our administrators are there for the lolly rather than the love.

    South Africa needs more of that ilk of administrators and less of the increasing number of gravy-train governors.

    Part of Lennon’s lyrics read:
    “No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man”

    Imagine if one could take, lets say our 500 (the number is moot) top athletes and administrators, to some place called Nirvana where they were free to eat, breathe and live sport with no outside influence. Many an international expert has marvelled at the sheer amount of talent our Rainbow Nation comes up with. Now if they could only harness that without undue influence that mythical pot at the end of that rainbow would truly overflow with gold medals.

    Imagine…

Road to LONDON 2012

100 full-colour pages packed with news and features for South Africa's Olympic community. Available at Exclusive books, CNA, sports retailers and Airport book stores at R29.95. To read the free online version by clicking on the cover below.
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Back issues

Limited quantities of previous Road to LONDON 2012 (SASCOC’s official quarterly magazine) are available for distribution to appropriate sport related events. Contact for more information.

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