Pretoria - Team South Africa could be returning from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with a greater medal haul than the six they won in London, if the University of Pretoria's High Performance Centre (HPC) has anything to do with it.
Marking a 1 000 days to the start of the next global showpiece, the HPC set its sights on contributing eight of the country’s medals.
While the goal may seem a bit ambitious, the sports facility claimed three of the six medals won last year as their own.
South Africa’s Olympic gold medal men’s lightweight fours rowing team, women’s 800m silver medallist Caster Semenya and bronze medal canoeist Bridgitte Hartley were all affiliated to the HPC and attributed their success to the institution.
HPC chief executive Toby Sutcliffe said while they will be targeting eight medals, they had more prospects within the 57 athletes at the facility.
“In rowing specifically we are trying to get three medals, because the original idea for London was that we were chasing the women’s pairs but we had an injury which put us back,” Sutcliffe said at a Forever Heroes Trust breakfast on Friday.
“We are also looking at Khotso Mokoena, we are definitely looking at Caster Semenya and, in the 400m hurdles, we have Cornel Fredericks, PC Beneke and LJ van Zyl to push each other.
“Bridgitte Hartley in the canoeing, and you can add Jacques van Zyl in the judo, whom we believe he is an outsider for a medal.”
Other HPC sponsored athletes included London Olympics triathlete Richard Murray, triple Olympic swimming medallist Roland Schoeman and Olympic mountain biker Philip Buys.
Sutcliffe said HPC had identified 57 athletes who were on a systematic programme with an eye to 2016 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“It is all about sustained and long-term athlete development where you start at the end and you work your way backwards,” Sutcliffe said.
“If we don’t say we're after eight medals, it is easy to say at a later stage that two is what we were after.”
He said the breakfast was to raise money for the Forever Heroes Trust to ensure the athletes had the means to perform at their best.
“We are doing what we believe is right for the country and what we believe is right for the athletes and hopefully we can take the country with us.”