Penny Heyns’ Atlanta 1996 Double Gold Medals Marks SA’s Greatest Moment in Sport in 30 Years of Democracy

Penny Heyns raises her gold medal after winning the 200m breaststroke final at the 1996 Atlanta USA Olympic Games, one of two gold medals won by the popular swim star that have been recognised in a gsport campaign as the greatest moment for South African women’s sport since the advent of democracy in the country, as the nation celebrates 30 years of democracy. File Photo: (c) Imago Images

Legendary South African swim star Penny Heyns’ twin gold medals at the Atlanta USA Olympic Games in 1996 have been recognised as the Greatest Moment in Women’s Sport since the dawn of democracy in South Africa. 

Heyns’ iconic gold medal victories in Atlanta captured the hearts of millions, and now takes centre stage as the pinnacle of South African women’s sporting achievements in thirty years of democracy.

The #FreedomInSport campaign, spearheaded by gsport – South Africa’s leading movement for women’s sport advancement, embarked on a journey to uncover the most iconic moments in women’s sport over in its first three decades of freedom in sport.

Through public participation and the discerning vote of a panel of 10 leading women in sport, all former Momentum gsport Award winners, Heyns emerged as the undisputed champion.

“The #FreedomInSport series serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of women in sport and the outstanding achievements they have recorded since 1994,” remarked gsport Founder, Kass Naidoo.

“Penny Heyns’ remarkable feat continues to inspire generations of athletes and symbolises the relentless pursuit of excellence in women’s sport.”

Joining Heyns in the illustrious gsport Top 10 #FreedomInSport Moments are trailblazers such as Caster Semenya, Natalie du Toit, and Kgothatso Montjane, each leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of women’s sport. 

“The #FreedomInSport series serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of women in sport and the outstanding achievements they have recorded since 1994,” said gsport Trustee, Hazel Gumede.

The gsport Newsroom powered by Momentum in partnership with Telkom remains committed to amplifying the voices and achievements of women in sport daily on gsport.co.za and across social media platforms (@gsport4girls).

As the #FreedomInSport series culminates, the forthcoming #gsport19 campaign promises to continue celebrating and honouring the extraordinary contributions of women in sport, solidifying their rightful place in the history of South African sport.

Top 10 South African Women’s Sport Moments Since 1994

1. 1996 Penny Heyns won Double Gold in Atlanta Olympic Games

2. 2016 Caster Semenya won the 800 gold in SA Record at the Rio Olympic Games

3. 2008 Natalie du Toit became the first amputee to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games

4. 2000 Zanele Situ became the first black SA female athlete to claim a Paralympic gold medal at Sydney Olympic Games

5. 2023 The Proteas Women became the first senior SA side to reach a Cricket World Cup Final

6. 2022 Banyana Banyana clinched their first-ever Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title

7. 2023 Banyana Banyana became the first senior SA team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup knockout berth

8. 2023 Kgothatso Montjane won her first Grand Slam title with Yui Kamiji at Roland Garros, for the French Open Doubles Title

9. 2018 Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold to break Penny Heyns’ 100m and 50m Breaststroke African records at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

10. 2008 Noko Matlou became the first South African to be named African Women’s Footballer of the Year by the Confederation of African Football

The gsport Top 10 Women’s Sport Moments Panel

(All former Momentum gsport Award winners)
Geraldine Pillay-Viret – Educator at St Benedict’s College
Busisiwe Mokwena – Multi-award winning sports journalist
Ronnie Tippett – Sports Broadcasting, Producer, TV Sports & News Productions
Dr. Natalie Le Clue
Mpumi Manyisi – Multimedia Journalist (SABC Sport)
llhaam Groenewald, Sport Business Management, Chief Director, Stellenbosch University, Maties Sport
Jane Bramley – Sports Reporter (Retired)
Lebohang Madubanya – Veteran Sports Broadcaster
Mapaseka Makhanya – Marathon Athlete
Hazel Gumede – Educator at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls


Photo Caption: Penny Heyns raises her gold medal after winning the 200m breaststroke final at the 1996 Atlanta USA Olympic Games, one of two gold medals won by the popular swim star that have been recognised in a gsport campaign as the greatest moment for South African women’s sport since the advent of democracy in the country, as the nation celebrates 30 years of democracy. File Photo: (c) Imago Images 

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gsport Newsroom

gsport Newsroom

Launched in 2006, gsport exists to enhance the commercial prospects of our women athletes, and other women in sport, by telling the inspiring story of SA women in sport. Thank you for your contribution!

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