Reflecting on Olympics 2008

by | Sep 8, 2008

The iconic 2008 Beijing Olympic Games venues, the Water Cube in front of the Birds Nest, pictured during the Games' Opening Ceremony. All pictures courtesy SASCOC.

The iconic 2008 Beijing Olympic Games venues, the Water Cube in front of the Birds Nest, pictured during the Games’ Opening Ceremony. All pictures courtesy SASCOC.



As South
Africa reflects on a rather disappointing
Olympic Games campaign, there is one thing the country can be proud of – the
number of women in the team this year. A total of 56 women competed in South
African colours in Beijing and that’s an
improvement on the team which made the trip to Athens four years ago.


The standard at the Olympic Games, however, seems to
soar every four years and while South Africa
was able to include these women in the team, the country has certainly not been
able to support them sufficiently in the years between Athens
and Beijing.

Like just about everyone has heard in the weeks
since the Games’ conclusion, South Africa is woefully lagging behind in the
money stakes and the bickering and in-fighting in the country’s sports
administration has not helped the situation one bit.

The first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games, South Africa's Natalie du Toit finished 16th in the 10km marathon swim.

The first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games, South Africa’s Natalie du Toit finished 16th in the 10km marathon swim.



Sponsors have backed away from Olympic sports in
recent years because of bad management among other things and Team South Africa had to put up with shoddily made clothing and kit,
while facing a barrage of criticism from back home after disappointing their
new fans – a large part of the country who only care about Olympic sports every
four years.

Nobody seemed interested in the fact that for three
years these athletes worked tirelessly to make the standard – with no support
from sponsors and very little money coming from the national lottery – and
after investing themselves in the qualifying process, by the time they reached
Beijing there was not much else to give.

But for a team which is only now reaching its
targets in the gender ranks, South Africa
can be proud of what their women were able to achieve in Beijing.

Canoeist Carol Joyce enjoying Chinese support for South Africa  at the Olympic Games.

Canoeist Carol Joyce enjoying Chinese support for South Africa at the Olympic Games.


While some walked away disappointed by their own
performances, most of the women in the team could be proud of what they
achieved because they had either reached personal bests or broken South African
and African records. The fact they were able to achieve any of the aforementioned
milestones is proof that they really did give their best and one couldn’t ask
for much more than that, especially after so little was invested in them in the
first place.

What was encouraging, though, was that most of the
women in the team still have another Olympic Games in them, at least, and if
this year’s failure at the Games is properly investigated and plans are drawn
up for London in 2012, then a lot of them have a shot at being the stars of
London.

The swimming team went from no women in Athens to nine in Beijing
and just about all of them could be part of the team in London. But Swimming South Africa (SSA) have
a load of politics to sort through before they can build for the next four
years. It was the first time South
Africa failed to win a medal in the pool
since readmission and that’s a sad indictment of what has happened to swimming
in the past four years.

The three-girl South African team which contested the Yngling Regatta, Sailing Team Isigungu's qualification process was arduous and lengthy.

The three-girl South African team which contested the Yngling Regatta, Sailing Team Isigungu’s qualification process was arduous and lengthy.

South
Africa
has failed to produce a swimmer
of the legendary Penny Heyn’s calibre since her retirement some years ago, but
the likes of Jessica Pengelly, Lize-Marie Retief, Melissa Corfe, Kathryn
Meaklim and Wendy Trott have shown that there is a solid foundation to build on
for London.

Another sport where South Africa could develop a
champion is canoeing. Jennifer Hodson was by far the star of the canoeing team
in Beijing
after making the K1 500m sprint final as well as the K4 sprint along with Carol
Joyce, Nicola Mocke and Michele Eray.

Hodson has since said she would like to
retire, but smart administration would persuade her to stay on and pass her
skills on to a younger generation.

For hockey and cycling there was a disappointment as
well but both sports, despite having a major sponsor, still have a long way to
go before they reach international standards.

From this Olympics one can easily see that there is
raw talent on offer, but it is up to the administrators and sponsors to turn
that into something polished.

Sponsorship in the country is rather distorted
and until some interest is shown in women’s sports and codes other rugby, soccer
and cricket, South Africa
will have to make do with bringing home one medal.  

 

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<a href="https://gsport.co.za/members/kass_naidoo/" target="_self">Kass Naidoo</a>

Kass Naidoo

Passionate sports broadcaster and founder of gsport4girls

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