Flying the SA Olympic Flag

by | Aug 8, 2008

The South African team to the Beijing Olympics gather for a photo prior to their send-off banquet.

The South African team to the Beijing Olympics gather for a photo prior to their send-off banquet.

My name is
Nazli Thomas and I’m a freelance journalist, but work for the The Star
newspaper on a full time basis. I’ll be covering the Olympic Games for
gsport…for Girls! and I’m looking forward to bringing you the news each day.

Nazli Thomas prior to the Olympic send-off. Picture:

Nazli Thomas prior to the Olympic send-off.        Picture:

I’ve been in the industry for three and a half years and have been on three
international assignments before, but this is by far the most exciting event
I’ve been assigned to cover. Like all the athletes going to the Olympics, for me,
this is a dream come true!

South Africa will be sending one of their
largest female contingents ever to the Beijing Olympic Games with a few medal
contenders between them. Most of the females in the team are youngsters who are
going to Beijing
to gain experience with an eye on the 2012 London Olympics.

There are,
however, a group of experienced women in the team who have spent the past four
years building towards Beijing.
One of those women is young Suzaan van Biljon. At 20, it is unbelievable that
she is already at the end of a four-year cycle, but in swimming, age has never
been a factor.

Suzaan van Biljon

Suzaan van Biljon

Van Biljon
was thrust into the spotlight after she picked up a gold medal the Pan Pacific
Championships in 2006. She also won gold in the 200m breaststroke at the World
Short Course Championships this year, while taking bonze in the 100m

She will
only swim the 200m at the Olympics and be part of the 4x100m medley relay team.
For the first time since the golden days of Penny Heyns, South Africa
has a female swimmer who could win a medal at a major championship –
coincidentally in the same event. There are eight other female swimmers in the
team, but none of them have enjoyed the spotlight as much as Van Biljon has.

Though not
in the pool but still part of the aquatics events, the 10km Open Water Race
will have a special competitor in Natalie du Toit. The 22-year-old Capetonian
will become the first athlete in the world to compete in both the Olympics and
Paralympic Games.

Du Toit finished fourth at the Open Water World Championships
earlier this year, just 5.1 second behind the winner and she’s hoping for such
a strong showing at the Olympics, but would most like to re-pay her fans.

Natalie du Toit

Natalie du Toit

"I’ve done
all I can do to prepare myself up to this point and I’m just hoping to go out
and do the best I can possibly do," said Du Toit before the team departed for a
training camp in South Korea.

"The support
I’ve gotten from the whole of South
Africa and the rest of the world has been
absolutely amazing so I hope I do well for all my fans."

Turning to
matters away from the pool, five female athletes will take part in track and
field events. René Kalmer, who will be running the 1500m, is one of
better-known females taking part, and although she’s made a name for herself in
10km road running, the brunette has loads of experience on the track. She’s run
the 800m and 5000m on track before and while she’s qualified for the Olympics
at the last minute, she’s just grateful her dream of competing at the Olympics
is coming true.

"It’s an
overwhelming feeling and I’m so excited that my dream is coming true," she
said. "I used road running to improve my endurance and I’ve worked really hard
to qualify so I’m happy it’s all paid off."

Rene Kalmer. Picture:

Rene Kalmer. Picture:

Ethiopians are bound to prove the toughest competition in the 1500m, but Kalmer
is aware that the 2004 title in Athens
was won by Brit Kelly Holmes so keeping her African counterparts out is

"I will have
to treat each round like a final if I am to make the final, but I’m ready for
it," said Kalmer. "You never know what can happen and after Kelly Holmes won
both the 1500m and 800m gold medal in Athens,
I believe anyone can do it and anything can happen."

Elizna Naudé
in the discus, Justine Robbeson in the javelin, Isabel Le Roux in the 200m and
Tsholofelo Thipe in the 400m are also South Africans to watch out for in the
track and field events.

bunch of women to watch is the South African women’s hockey team. They aren’t
aiming to set the tournament alight, but could surprise some of the top teams
in the competition. They’ve played 11 international matches in the past two
months – the best preparation they’ve had under coach Jenny King.

20080808Olympic7.jpgCherise Taylor. Picture:

Cherise Taylor. Picture:

"After a
really bad World Cup, we hope we have it all right this time," said King.
"Playing international matches so close to the Olympics will prove invaluable
and the team spirit after being away from home together for such a long time is
"Because we
aren’t ranked that high, our team spirit will go a long way and that could
carry us through some tough matches."

Other women
to keep an eye on will be the beach volleyball team of Judith Augoustides and
Vitalina Nel. Augoustides was born in Germany
and Nel in the Ukraine, but
both qualified to play for South
Africa after marrying men from the country.
They are coached by an Egyptian, Abdel El Wassimy, but are hoping to do well
for South Africa.

It will also
be interesting to see what the cycling duo of Cherise Taylor and Marissa van
der Merwe make of their trip to Beijing.
Taylor is only
18-years-old, but hopes to gain some experience as she looks to the 2012



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Otherwise, read on:
August 2008’s Leading
Woman of the Month: Lindsey
Woman in Media: Carly
Style Star: Uyanda
gSTAR: Vida
August 2008’s Clinique Feature
Kass Blog:
2008 Hall
of Fame Interview: Honouring
Elana Meyer
Wonder Woman: Living
on Purpose
Personal Account: My
World Title Fight
News Letter: Keeping
Your Lips Sealed


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About the Author:

<a href="" target="_self">Kass Naidoo</a>

Kass Naidoo

Passionate sports broadcaster and founder of gsport4girls


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