The South African Sport and Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has finalised the list of athletes to represent Team South Africa at the Tokyo Olympic Games. For the first time, SASCOC does not have a target of medals for the Games. However, South Africa will be sending a strong contingent to compete in 18 sporting codes.

The last 20 months posed all sorts of problems for athletes and it wasn’t easy to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first group of athletes to represent Team South Africa was announced by SASCOC with 57 days to go before the Games.

But there were notable omissions from the initial squad of athletes from seven sporting codes, including athletics, cycling, and gymnastics. South Africa’s golden boy, Wayde van Niekerk and golden girl Caster Semenya, were not on the list as they still had to qualify for the Olympics.

The second group of athletes from 10 sporting codes was announced late last month.

“We expect nothing less than for you to get out there to try your best to represent the country with pride and to show us you can go out there and compete with the very best in the world. We look forward to watching you playing and competing on the various platforms and we look forward for you to grow sport by showing other role models throughout South Africa that it is indeed possible to reach the very highest goals,” says SASCOC president, Barry Hendricks.

The final list includes both the men’s and women’s hockey teams, swimming, water polo, equestrian, as well as rugby sevens.

“I don’t think it has sunk in completely and I don’t think it’s a relief until we get there because at the moment we are trying to keep the horse and the rider wrapped up in cotton wool before we get there. So, I think when we get there – there we might read a bit more but it’s an amazing feeling. It still gives goosebumps every time we think about it. So, (we’re) really excited,” says SA Equestrian team member, Vicky Scott.

The captain for men’s water polo, Lwazi Madi, says: ” The feeling is incredible. This was something a lot of us didn’t think it was possible for a very long time and a lot of us have quite a lot of international experience and I think we’ve always been relishing the opportunity to play under the games and it’s very exciting that this is going to be our first time in such a long time to represent our country.”

The Games which were supposed to be staged last year, will now run from the 23rd of July to the 8th of August. The team will be leaving in small groups.

“Most of our teams will be starting to depart from the 13th of July. I must indicate that the 2020 organising committee they’ve put measures around issues of managing COVID and all these measures we have to adhere to and one of them is that each and every athlete that is going to the games they are expected to arrive in Tokyo seven days before their competition starts and that’s why our flights or departures are staggered,” explains SASCOC Chef de Mission, Patience Shikwambana.

South Africa won 10 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which was an improvement on the six medals they won in London back in 2012.