An initial team of 112 women and men’s athletes to represent South Africa at this year’s London Olympics was announced by South Africa’s Olympic governing body SASCOC on Wednesday at a glittering function at the Olympic House headquarters.
The final team to travel to London will be announced on July 4 after the qualification deadline for all sporting codes comes to an end.
The team is a broad mix of experience and youth and SASCOC President Gideon Sam said the team was chosen from the best talent available for selection. “Today’s announcement is the culmination of four years of extremely hard work for everyone, both at SASCOC and in the broader South African sports fraternity.
“I’ve always said that the building of a team is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. So today we are putting just about the final pieces of that puzzle into place with only a few more additions likely after the final qualification cut-off.
“Make no bones about it, we could have done better if we had more funding but that’s always the case. The time for excuses is over and I believe that we have done the very best that we could have done under the circumstances. There was the criticism over the clothing sponsor but we believe we’ve done our absolute best and when you see our stars turn out at the Olympics and Paralympics I think you’ll agree.”
Team sports form the bulk of the team thus far with the women’s football side taking a squad of 18 players and the men’s and women’s hockey sides each taking 16 players.
In the individual sports, as expected, aquatics and athletics feature highly with 16 swimmers and 11 athletes being selected.
A total of 16 sporting codes will be represented, ranging from archery to weightlifting and it will be the first time that our national women’s side, fondly known as Banyana Banyana, will compete at the Olympics.
2009 world 800-meter champion Caster Semenya makes the grade for her first Olympics, along with Commonwealth Games champion javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen in an athletics team that also features a full-strength line-up of three women’s marathon athletes.
SASCOC CEO Tubby Reddy was also on hand to congratulate those athletes who had made the team: “We at SASCOC appreciate all the extremely hard work put in by the athletes and administrators and are proud of each and one of them. We set high qualifying standards from the outset but I’m happy to say that our athletes have risen to the challenge. This team was chosen solely on merit and will do us proud on the global stage.”
Sam went on to say: “Our athletes across the spectrum have been hugely appreciative of what we at SASCOC have been able to provide for them through our Operation Excellence (OPEX) and we have been able to help them and their coaches. When I look at this team I am filled with pride and hope. This is a very good team and I have no doubt that there is lots of medal potential. And I say potential because although we have got you to this stage and are behind you every step of the way, the final push for the podium rests with you as the athletes.”
“Just a few of these names that stand out to me in this team are athletes Caster Semenya, we all know what a tough road she has had to tread to get this far.
“Then there’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, who has done so well on the European road cycling scene.
“Finally may I, on behalf of SASCOC and the entire South African nation, wish this team the very best before they head off to London. You have earned the right to represent your country. Now do us and yourself proud.”
Women members of Team South Africa: Aquatics: Kathryn Meaklim, Karin Prinsloo, Wendy Trott, Suzaan van Biljon Archery: Karen Hultzer Athletics: Marathon: Rene Kalmer, Tanith Maxwell, Irvette van Blerk. Track and field: Caster Semenya, Sunette Viljoen. Badminton: Michelle Edwards, Annari Viljoen Canoeing: Bridgitte Hartley, Tiffany Kruger Cycling: Road: Robyn de Groot, Ashleigh Moolman, Joanna van der Winkel. Mountain bike: Candice Neethling Soccer: Roxanne Barker, Zamandosi Cele, Amanda Dlamini, Judith Hlumbane, Refiloe Jane, Kylie-Ann Louw, Noko Matlou, Andisiwe Mgcoyi, Philadelphia Mndaweni, Portia Modise, Sanah Mollo, Robyn Moodaly, Marry Ntsweng, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Amanda Sister, Leandra Smeda, Janine van Wyk, Nothando Vilakazi Hockey: Tarryn Bright, Dirkie Chamberlain, Pietie Coetzee, Bernadette Coston, Sulette Damons, Illse Davids, Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Lesle-Ann George, Lenise Marais, Marsha Marescia, Mariette Rix, Shelley Russell, Kathleen Taylor, Nicolene Terblanche, Jennifer Wilson, Kate Woods Rowing: Women’s Pair: Lee-Ann Persse, Naydene Smith Triathlon: Kate Roberts, Gillian Sanders