Tuesday, 24 July 2012

South Africa's medal-winning schedule for London 2012. Hopefully.

The spear: Sunette Viljoen is a contender in the javelin

After a sensational weekend which saw Ernie Els, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Richard Murray and even Ajax Cape Town hailed as world-beaters around the globe, it's time to turn our attention to the London Olympics.
Though the top-secret opening ceremony (which will, I can reveal, may feature David Beckham as James Bond) is only on Friday, South Africa's campaign gets underway tomorrow with the football girls Banyana Banyana playing Sweden.
Though Banyana are unlikely to create an upset and take a medal, I reckon South Africa has SEVEN big medal chances, most significantly in the pool, though they may yet reach Sports Minister Fikile Mbulula's hoped-for haul of 12.
Below I've listed all the dates when South Africa can expect to claim silverware (bronzeware or even goldware).
With the swimming starting on Saturday, Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Bergh are both ranked in the world's top ten in several different events, with Le Clos likely to reach the final in both medley events (featuring all four strokes) and Van der Bergh strong in the breast-stroke over 100m and 200m.
The athletics doesn't get underway until August 3, with Caster Semenya, Khotso Mokoena, Sunette Viljoen and men’s 4x400m our most likely medalists. Semenya will have to improve significantly on her 800m times so far this year where she falls outside the world's top ten, but she has done this before, peaking out of the blue. She is predicted to win gold by the athletics bible, Track and Field Weekly.
Long-jumper Mokoena, our only medal-winner in Beijing four years ago, is an almost certain finalist, along with javelinist Viljoen and the men's 4x400m team, which might include Oscar "Bladerunner" Pistorius, who ran in the qualifiers when the team won silver at the World Championships. Pistorius, the first amputee to compete in an Olympics, admits "a strong semi-final" is as far as he's going to get in the individual 400m.
Keep an eye out too for LJ Van Zyl, the one-lap relay specialist who is also an outside hope in the men's 400m hurdles.
After his first world triathlon triumph in Hamburg last Saturday, Richard Murray, the 23-year-old from Cape Town, could big news on Tuesday, August 7 when the men take to the water, bike and trainers.
The three big team events (women’s football and men’s and women’ hockey) offer outside hopes too, particularly women's hockey, though all three teams are ranked outside the podium places.
Cycling could be another rich source of valuable metal for South Africa. Mountain-biker Burry Stander, a World Cup winner in Pietermaritzburg last season, is listed on my schedule of potential medal winners below, along with women’s road race contender Ashleigh Moolman and BMX hopeful Sifiso Nhlapo, so unlucky in Beijing.
I'm told Bridgitte Hartley could also medal in K1 500 canoeing among the blazing paddles at Dorney, and the men's coxless lightweight four came second in the last World Cup in Lucerne. There are other outside chances, but I’ve listed all the above below, featuring only Le Clos and Vd Bergh's strongest events. South Africa could also feature in the men's relay finals, Le Clos is entered for a record SEVEN events at the brand new aquadome.

SA medal winning Olympic schedule (* marks medal chance):
Wednesday, 25: Women’s football kicks off tomorrow with Banyana Banyana v Sweden
Friday, 27: Opening ceremony, watch out for Vikings and Romans
Saturday 28: Banyana Banyana second game
*Sunday 29: Women’s road race cycling: Ashleigh Moolman
*Sunday 29: Men’s 100m breast-stroke: Cameron vd Bergh
*Tuesday, 31: Men's 200m Butterfly: Chad Le Clos
*Thursday 2: Rowing: Men's lightweight four: Brittain, Ndlovu, Smith, Thompson
*Friday 3: Men's 100m Butterfly: Chad Le Clos
*Saturday 4: Men’s long jump final: Khotso Mokoena
*Sunday 5: Men’s 100m final: Usain Bolt etc and women’s marathon with strong SA team
*Tuesday 7: Men’s triathlon: Richard Murray
*Thursday 9: Women’s K1 500: Bridgitte Hartley
*Thursday 9: Women’s javelin final, Sunette Viljoen.
*Friday 10: Men’s BMX final: Sifiso Nhlapo
*Friday 10: Men’s 4x400m relay: Oscar Pistorius, Van Zyl, Fredericks, Ofentse Mogawane, Willie de Beer and Shaun de Jager.
Friday 10: Women’s hockey final
Saturday 11: Men’s hockey final
*Saturday 11: Final of women’s 800m: Caster Semenya
*Sunday 12: Men's mountain biking: Burry Stander

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