August 22, 2016

South African success at the 2016 Rio Olympics

The 2016 Rio Olympics have come and gone, and for South Africa’s athletes, the competition was a great success. The country’s athletics athletes excelled during their competitions, and some brought home gold, silver or bronze. Rugby 7s also had great success along with the country’s top swimmers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group left an indelible memory in the minds of those South Africans that watched back home. Here we look back at some of those outstanding performances in Rio.

South Africa’s Caster Semenya was one of the country’s most talked about athletes going into the games. The track  superstar blazed past the competition in Rio, bringing home a gold medal in the 800 metres. Semenya’s time of 1:55.28 cemented her as the best middle-distance runner of her generation. Semenya’s performance not only gave her the first Olympic gold medal of her career, but it also put many of the questions about her to rest.

Carina Horn, who took home gold at the African Championships in the 4×100 relay, may not have seen the success that Semenya was. However, she did make it to the semi-final of the Women’s 100m race. Despite a fantastic effort, Horn was unable to finish in the top two places, meaning she was unable to race in the final. She will definitely be back, however, racing for gold soon.

Like Horn, Wenda Nel took her success in the African Championships to the Olympic stage. Nel won two gold medals in Durban earlier this in the 400m hurdles and the 4×100 relay. Nel ran a solid 400m hurdles race to begin her 2016 Olympic Games. However, the semi-finals would be as far as Nel would go. Her 55.83 seconds was only good for sixth in her group. Yet, Nel still leaves Rio with her head held high after a fantastic 2016.

Long-distance runner, 24-year-old Dominique Scott, was so close to a medal she could taste it. Like the rest of the athletes competing from South Africa, she was competing against the world’s best in her sport, in the 10,000m race. Scott got off to a brilliant start, but as the race wore on, more experienced Olympic athletes like Tirunesh Dibaba moved to the front of the pack. Scott finished with a 31:51.47 time, which was good enough for 21st out of 37 ladies running in the race. No doubt with more experience, Scott will be ready for an even better finish in four years.

Sunette Viljoen is one of South Africa’s top female athletes, and she once again showed why in Rio. Viljoen took home the silver medal in the women’s javelin throw with a distance of 64.92 metres. Her throw just edged out Czech Republic athlete Barbora Spotakova who threw a 64.80. Viljoen’s silver medal caps off a fantastic two-year spell of winning medals at various games.

South Africa’s men’s side was just as strong as the women’s. Wayde van Niekerk (shown in the post’s featured cartoon) blew past the competition in the 400m finals. The sprinter took home gold and set an unbelievable world record of 43.03 seconds. Van Niekerk’s world record shattered the previous one set by United States’ runner Michael Johnson, who ran the 400m in 43.18 seconds in 1999.

One hundred metre sprinter Akani Simbine qualified for the Olympic final in the competition after ranking third in the semi-final. Simbine then had the misfortune of running against the great Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and Yohan Blake. Simbine still finished fifth in what was the most difficult of all the short-distance races.

Rynhardt van Rensburg is one of South Africa’s most promising runners. Van Rensburg ran in the Olympics’ 800m race, finishing fifth in the semi-finals. His 1:45.33 just missed out on the top three in the group, but he still leaves Rio as one of South Africa’s runners with plenty of potential.

The 5000m is one of the Olympics most demanding races. Elroy Gelant, silver medallist at the African Championships, ran a solid race in Rio. His time of 13:17.47 was good enough for 13th place. He finished just over 14 seconds behind gold medal winner Mo Farah, which shows just how close the race was between the contestants.

L.J. van Zyl has been one of South Africa’s top hurdlers over the years. However, at 31, the South African is nearing the end of his career. Rio 2016 may very well have been his last chance at Olympic gold. Van Zyl qualified for the semi-finals with a 49.12 second finish in the first round. Despite a good performance of 49.00 seconds in the semi-final, Van Zyl’s fifth place finish just kept him out of running for gold. Regardless, the South African has had a stellar career in athletics.

Luvo Manyonga has made a career of winning medals in the long jump. His performance at the 2016 Olympics was no different as Manyonga jumped 8.37m, taking home silver. Manyonga nearly took gold back to South Africa, but was edged out of first by the USA’s Jeff Henderson, who leapt 8.38m.

In all, South Africa’s athletes did the country proud.

Wayde van Niekerk (Men’s 400m) Luvo Manyonga (Men’s long jump) Philip Snyman (Men’s Rugby 7s)
Caster Semenya (Women’s 800m) Sunette Viljoen (Women’s javelin throw) Kyle Brown (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Shaun Keeling (Men’s coxless pair) Justin Geduld (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Lawrence Brittain (Men’s coxless pair) Cecil Afrika (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Cameron van der Burgh (Men’s 100m breaststroke) Werner Kok (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Chad Guy Bertrand Le Clos (Men’s 200m freestyle) Kwagga Smith (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Chad Guy Bertrand Le Clos (Men’s 100m butterfly) Rosko Specman (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Seabelo Senatla (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Dylan Sage (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Juan de Jongh (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Cheslin Kolbe
  Tim Agaba (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Francois Hougaard (Men’s Rugby 7s)
  Henri Schoeman (Men’s triathlon)

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