Sam talks up SA's medal hopes
Cape Town - South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) president Gideon Sam is confident that South Africa's athletes will be better prepared for the Olympic Games than four years ago in Beijing.
Sam was speaking on Thursday at a news conference held in Melrose in Johannesburg, where the events in the build-up to the Games were discussed.
The Games start on 27 June in London and finish on 12 August.
"We're definitely on a better playing field than in 2008 [before the Beijing Games]," Sam told the Beeld newspaper.
"Four years ago there wasn't enough focus on our athletes and it showed in the results they brought home (Khotso Mokoena's silver medal in the long jump was the only success). This time it's different. Since June 2009 we have spent almost R34 million to help our athletes become the best they can be - largely thanks to the department of sport and recreation and the National Lottery," said Sam.
And with the 30th edition of the modern Olympic Games 161 days away on Friday, Sam acknowledged that the butterflies in the stomach are starting to emerge.
"As the showpiece in London comes closer, the more nervous I get. But it's very encouraging for me to see how much self-confidence our top athletes have about their chances at the Games.
"I'm oozing with passion when I read about LJ van Zyl (hurdles athlete) saying he owes it to himself to earn a medal in London - that's what we want to hear.
"At this stage we’re keeping with our original target of 12 medals. We won't deviate from that before the Games begin. Of course we're hoping in reality we earn more."
Sam said the lack of sponsors for South Africa's athletes is still a major problem.
"Our poor performance in Beijing had a negative impact, because it chases potential sponsors away.
"Keep in mind that we invested quite a lot of money in our athletes but still have to go and compete against teams that have had billions in financial assistance.
"But I'm not too concerned about that because we have a counter to that: our athletes' courage and fighting spirit.
"They will perform," said Sam.