Sascoc names athletes to represent SA at Tokyo Olympics

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The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has announced its first batch of athletes that will represent the country at the Tokyo Olympic Games, with notable omissions for now. Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams were included in the initial squad of 64 athletes.

Despite growing calls from Japanese citizens that the Games be postponed or cancelled, the countdown to Japan for Team South Africa is well under way.

A quick search online on the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, petition after petition pops up from ordinary Japanese citizens, all calling for the Games to be postponed or cancelled.

But just two days ago, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said he believed the Games would go ahead in 2021 and said the option of cancelling the event was “essentially off the table.”

And with that, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has announced its first batch of athletes set to represent the country in Japan.

Two 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold medallists, Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya, are the two notable omissions and are not yet part of the athletics team.

Van Niekerk, the 400 metres world record holder, is in the United States where he still needs to run qualifying times for 400 and 200 metres events. Semenya, who is barred from defending her 800 metres title due to her high testosterone levels, hopes to qualify for the 5 000 metres race.

They have until 29 June to qualify for the Games which starts on 23 July.

Those included in the initial squad are looking forward to the games and hope it’s not postponed again.

South African cyclist, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio says it was difficult to prepare for the Games in order to ensure that she arrives at the Games in peak form. Moolman-Pasio also hopes the games won’t get postponed.

A compliment of just under 300, consisting of coaches and athletes will leave our shores to the Olympic Games.

As for the expectations at the games, a mixed bag of results is expected, but it’s about doing your best and leaving it out on the field of play that matters most.

SA women’s hockey player, Phumelela Mbande, says the team hopes to reach the quarter-finals after missing out in 2016 despite having qualified for the Games.

Other notable inclusions so far are South African sprint king, Akani Simbine, cyclists Daryl Impey, Ryan Gibbons and Nicholas Dlamini and surfer Bianca Buitendag.

COVID-19 vaccination

Meanwhile, athletes willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccination have already started doing so last Friday, but nobody will be forced to take it.

Sascoc President Barry Hendricks says athletes will have a choice whether to get vaccinated or not. He says the vaccines being administered to athletes are not from government, but were donated to Sascoc by the  International Olympic Committee (IOC).

With 57 days to go, this initial squad will be bolstered by more qualifiers soon, with the hope of beating the haul of ten medals won in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. Another batch of athletes is expected to be announced in two weeks’ time.