SA crowned kings of Africa
Cameron van der Burgh was one of SA's stars (File)
Maputo - South Africa are once again the champions of Africa after they finished at the top of the medals table at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique.
Before the team left for the Games they were given a clear mandate by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam to finish the Games as the top country at the multi-sport event.
They have done this in emphatic style, winning a total of 157 medals of which a whopping 62 were gold, 55 silver and 40 bronze.
The team’s results have cast a massive shadow over the performances of the other nations with Nigeria finishing second with 98 medals, 31 gold, 28 silver and 39 bronze while Egypt were third with 66 medals of which 32 were gold, 14 silver and 20 bronze.
A delighted Sam on Sunday said the aim of being crowned the best on the continent was also to set the standard for future Games.
"We did very well and we set out to do be the best as we are the economic powerhouse on the continent and should therefore be first in Africa," Sam said.
He said the Games could only come into their own if the participating countries made them a showpiece of international standard, which was the reason SASCOC had sent their strongest team to Maputo.
It is the first time since 1999, when South Africa hosted the Games, that the team have finished at the top of medal’s table.
At the 2003 Abuja Games they relinquished their top spot to the hosts, finishing in third place.
South Africa also finished in third position at the previous continental showpiece in Algiers, Algeria in 2007.
The swimming team were responsible for the largest medal yield as they won 73 medals in the pool.
Sam said all the praise, however, should not be reserved for the swimmers and pointed out that other so-called small sports codes like badminton and beach volleyball also pulled their weight.
He said the triathletes opened the door for the other sports as they started South Africa’s campaign with four medals.
"It goes to show if you give them a chance they can deliver the goods and I have to say thank you to the Lottery for the funds they have given us," said Sam.
The South Africans were a dominant force in most of the events but the absence of the country’s top track athletes proved to be a let-down.
The field athletes, however, made up for this as they added 15 medals to the team’s total.
Sam said he could not fault the athletics federation for the number of no-shows as the Games clashed with other international events.
"We can’t blame Athletics South Africa for a poor calendar in the world," he said.
"They went to Daegu (South Korea) for the world championships then there were the Diamond League meetings where athletes like LJ van Zyl and Sunnette Viljoen were committed to participate."
He said it had also difficult for the swimmers as they had little rest after July’s FINA World Long Course championships in Shanghai, China.
The calendar for the Games, Sam said, had to be re-examined as they could not afford any clashes with other international events.
Sam said it was about time that the All Africa Games received the same clout as continental Games elsewhere in the world, such as the Asian Games, where nations fought for the hosting rights.
He also said South Africa’s achievements at the Games were proof that SASCOC’s efforts of instilling a culture of excellence in South African sport were starting to bear fruit.