Johannesburg - South Africa has a lot to celebrate – Akani Simbine won South Africa’s first 100m gold medal at the Commonwealth Games; our swimmers gave their best performances in the past 12 years; and Martin Erasmus won South Africa’s first Commonwealth Games wrestling gold medal in 60 years.
South Africa won’t match the outstanding performance that earned them 40 medals in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014, but, overall, this felt like a better run than the one they had four years ago.
This wasn’t an event where the numbers made the headlines. This time around, it was about the backstories. The “how” was far more important than the “how many”.
Take for instance the way South Africa started the games. Triathlete Henri Schoeman – a young man who wasn’t even the top South African on most commentators’ lists of favourites – won a gold medal.
There was also the emergence of new swimming champion Tatjana Schoenmaker, a 20-year-old who part-time sports fans hadn’t even heard of before her big win. Her two gold medals, together with Chad le Clos’ three and Cameron van der Burgh’s big prize, mean South Africa has six swimming medals in the bag.
This was the country’s biggest gold metal tally since 2006.
Van der Burgh’s victory in the 50m breaststroke was huge, and Le Clos’s success in all three butterfly races was historic.
There’s also reason to rejoice over what our wrestlers achieved. Just as they did in the past two Commonwealth Games, they made a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s medal tally.
Team SA’s success is summed up in the drama that came with their last few medals, and the dreams that its group of young athletes have cherished.
Here is a short summary of the country’s Commonwealth success:
Two results stood out, and both came on the same day.
The unforgettable Monday afternoon that saw South Africa win four gold medals in less than 90 minutes has been etched into the memory of South African sports lovers.
The question is, which was more momentous? The victory that kicked it off, or the win that wrapped everything up?
Van der Burgh’s victory over Adam Peaty in the 50m breaststroke was the result that first made South Africans jump for joy. The win came out of the blue.
But South Africa’s gold and silver medals in the 100m track race were also cause for celebration. It was a big moment that the country will probably talk about for a long time.
Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies didn’t just put their best foot forward in the 100m, both were part of the 4x100m relay team that won silver and set a new South African record time of 38.24.
They set the record with Anaso Jobodwana and Emile Erasmus. Simbine, who was responsible for the final leg, was on fire.
Most of the world was caught off guard when Simbine was crowned South Africa’s first 100m champion. They were probably even more surprised at the fact that he beat Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake. But Simbine was already a household name in South Africa.
Bruintjies’ silver medal win was the real surprise. He was in top form during his first international final and, on top of that, he was in the outside lane.
After the race, he said he planned to stay on the heels of Simbine, who was running in the lane next to him. He knew that strategy would earn him a place on the winner’s podium.
The bronze medal that Clint Hendricks won in the road cycling event yesterday was a welcome bonus for a country that was already smiling. He crossed the finish line in 3.57.01.
The South African netball team went to Australia with high expectations after giving England and New Zealand a run for their money last year, but their dreams were dashed in their first match after Jamaica brought them to their knees.
After a defeat against Australia, the best they could hope for was fifth place, which was where they eventually ended up.
Jobodwana’s disqualification from the 200m race and Clarence Munyai’s injury in the same event were also major disappointments.