Road to London: Marcus Retief
Cape Town - In the sixth in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to SA wheelchair basketball captain, Marcus Retief.
Road to London: Bridgette Hartley
Road to London: Kate Woods
Road to London: Cameron van der Burgh
Road to London: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi
Road to London: Gideon Sam
GRAEME JOFFE: August 29, start of the Paralympics in London, not too far off and Marcus, you guys have just recently returned from a tournament in Belgium.
MARCUS RETIEF: Yes, we were up against some of the top sides, Australia, Canada and Italy. We didn’t get any wins but we got to see exactly where we were and what we still need to do before the Paralympics.
JOFFE: Australia are the world champions but by the time you guys got to the last game against Italy, the team was playing at a standard that you are used to again?
RETIEF: Ja, absolutely. Not making any excuses, the guys have been training but the guys from Europe are in a dual season, so it helps them a lot. Things are coming together and we took a lot of positives from the tournament in Belgium.
JOFFE: Richard Nortje is the only professional player in the SA side. How are you guys finding the time for work and play and all the training leading up to London?
RETIEF: It’s not easy but the guys have just got to do it, sacrifice. We are based all over the country, so the guys are getting together and doing the extra work. We all know that the Paralympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we know we have to make the sacrifices. Luckily we have that state of mind from the players, so it’s great.
JOFFE: You guys have beaten the best in Africa to qualify for London but a tough task awaits at the Olympics?
RETIEF: Absolutely, we had a good win in the qualifiers, we had a thirty point win there against Morocco but come London we are up against the best. We’ve got Australia, USA, Italy, Spain and Turkey in our group. So, we’ll be watching some video footage on them, finding out about them but we are looking forward to the challenge.
JOFFE: Medal prospects?
RETIEF: Every tournament, you are going all out for gold, so we will give it our all.
JOFFE: But even if you end up in the top six or eight, you guys will be happy with that performance?
RETIEF: Yes, realistically, we are looking at six or better, because if we are in sixth place or better, we open up another group for Africa, another spot for Africa, so it would be nice if we have got two African teams being able to participate in the Paralympics. At the moment it is just one, so if we end six or better, we get the two spots and I think that would be great for us.
JOFFE: Wheelchair basketball in SA gets great exposure, especially on Supersport. You’ve got committed sponsors and Andy Scott is so passionate about the game.
RETIEF: The sponsors are incredible. Sasol is the national team sponsor and they are just on board with everything. They travel to all our tournaments with us, just the support we get from them is absolutely incredible. Also Discovery, Vodacom, DHL, big companies like that on board, that make the sport a lot easier. You know the guys are not getting paid to play but they are getting compensation for what they are putting in, travelling expenses and things like that, so it makes it a lot easier to participate in the sport.
JOFFE: And the domestic league still going strong with most of the games at Mandeville?
RETIEF: That is right and our league starts in May at the Vodacom Mandeville Centre, which will be good preparation as well for the London Olympics.
JOFFE: Marcus Retief, South African Wheelchair Basketball captain, wishing the guys the best of luck for London.
RETIEF: Thank you very, very much.
Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on www.1485.org.za. Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy
SA wheelchair basketball captain Marcus Retief in actin (Gallo Images)