Medal haul by Team South Africa at Olympics

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Two years after the country’s first democratic elections, swimmer Penny Heyns and long-distance runner Josiah Thugwane, won gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Since then, many other athletes have added to the country’s success at the world’s biggest sporting spectacle which is held every four years. Team South Africa have won a total of 30 medals in the Olympic Games that were held in the last 30 years.

Heyns won the women’s 100 metres breaststroke for the country’s first medal at the Atlanta Games.

She added another gold to the country’s medal haul at the games winning the women’s 200 metres breaststroke event.

She also set a new world record in the event with Amanda Beard of the United States, who came second in the 100 metres race, also finishing in second place in the 200 metres breaststroke.

Heyns had words of praise for her closest competitor after the race.

“She’s a terrific swimmer, I knew I had to go faster… tried to be as strong as I could I actually wasn’t sure if I had.”

Thugwane, who was unknown at the time, won a gold medal in the marathon. His victory was the country’s first in the Olympic Men’s Marathon since 1912.

Middle distance runner, Hezekiel Sepeng, won a silver medal in the 800 metres race, while Marianne Kriel won bronze in the women’s 100 metre backstroke.

Sepeng won the silver medal under extraordinary circumstances which saw him overtake more than five of his competitors on the home straight to claim second place. He says he was inspired by Elana Meyer’s silver medal win in the 10 000 metres race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

“It was great but not easy. I first saw the Olympics in 1992 and I said to my coach lets train for it I want to go get the same medal as Elana.”

Swimming has accounted for most of the country’s medals at the games over the years.

The four by 100 metres freestyle relay team comprising Roland Schoeman, Darian Townsend, Ryk Neethling and Lyndon Ferns won a gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004. Team South Africa then had Chad Le Clos and Cameron Van den Bergh who excelled in the pool.

The two made the country proud by winning two gold medals each in their events at the 2012 London Games and also, setting new world records. There was a rare gold medal for Team South Africa in the rowing event at the 2012 London Games. James Thompson, Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain and John Smith received gold medals in the lightweight men’s four.

Wayde Van Niekerk and Caster Semenya added to the country’s Olympic success at the Rio Games in 2016. They both won gold medals. Van Niekerk set a world record in the 400 metres event breaking Michael Johnson’s long standing record.

Swimmer, Tatjana Schoenmaker, was among medal winners for Team South Africa at the last Olympic Games in Tokyo. The 27-year-old won a gold medal and set a new world record in the 200 metre breaststroke and won a silver medal in the 100 metre breaststroke. Schoenmaker was ecstatic when the team arrived back in the country. She was also thinking of the next Olympic games.

“I think it might never sink in… just being at the Olympics was an amazing achievement for most of us, it’s over now we have to focus on 2024.”

Other medal winners for the country at previous Olympic Games include Khotso Mokoena, Sunnete Viljoen, Bianca Buitendag and the Blitzbok team.

Athletes who will represent the country at this year’s Games in Paris will also hope to make the country proud by winning medals.

Author: Percy Nkatlo