Road to London: Jean Greeff

2012-06-18 09:31

Cape Town - In the 13th 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 weightlifter, Jean Greeff.

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Road to London: Kate Woods

Road to London: Cameron van der Burgh
Road to London: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi

Road to London: Gideon Sam

Road to London: Marcus Retief

Road to London: Freedom Chiya

Road to London: Irvette van Blerk

Road to London: Chad le Clos

Road to London: LJ van Zyl

Road to London: Marc Mundell

Road to London: Kate Roberts

Road to London: Lawrence Ndlovu

GRAEME JOFFE: South Africa will have one weightlifter going to the London Olympics. Jean Greeff, congratulations.
JEAN GREEFF: Thank you very much Graeme.

JOFFE: Are you all packed and ready to go?
GREEFF: I can't say I am packed yet but I am focussing a lot on training at the moment and just focusing on improving where I need to improve. Still got a training camp in Poland and just very excited about what it going to happen in London.

JOFFE: So while we are talking, have you got some dumbbells in your hands?
GREEFF: (laughter), no, no, I actually like to focus on training so I don’t to mix it with too much different stuff.

JOFFE: That would be multi-tasking.
GREEFF: Ja, we will leave that to the ladies. (laughter)

JOFFE: (laughter) Jean, will this be your first Olympics?
GREEFF: Yes, it is my first Olympics.

JOFFE: What was the qualification process for weightlifting?
GREEFF: Well, there is two ways of qualifying for Olympics Games. The first way is individual qualification and that is done through being in the top 15 in the world and for that you usually have to compete at three different, non-Olympic Games. There is a World Championship in weightlifting and you need to compete at all three of them to get points and that is the way you basically qualify for individual qualification. We, unfortunately didn’t do that, we actually had the second chance of qualifying as a team at the African continental competition and then the first four teams at the continental, all get one spot. So, I think there were six of us, competing for points and then as a team. We only managed to get one spot and from there it is basically SASCOC’s decision. Four athletes were nominated from our federation and then SASCOC actually has to do the final selection based on age and being the best lifter.

JOFFE: Being the only South African weightlifter going to the Games, does that feel like you have some extra weight to carry on your shoulders?
GREEFF: I definitely have because in weightlifting, I am the fifth athlete that actually has the ability to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games. The first one was Isaac, then Piet Taljaard and then after Piet, my granddad’s brother Jannie Greeff who actually represented South Africa at the Olympics in 1962. Then at the previous Olympics, we had the opportunity of sending one athlete who was Darren Anthony. Now, I am the fifth one to represent South Africa in weightlifting.

JOFFE: Tell us a little bit more about Jean Greeff. Where were you born, your schooling and how you got into weightlifting.
GREEFF: Well, I was born in JHB, grew up in Kempton Park, went to school at Kempton Park Laerskool. Then in 2001, we moved down to Cape Town and I stayed in Somerset West, went to school there. In 2003, we moved to Port Elizabeth  and while I was there, it was always a dream of mine, because my granddad was quite a champion in weightlifting. He went to Commonwealth Games, he actually was one of the only South Africans to ever get his name in the Guinness Book of Records. So, it was like a legacy for me, to actually follow. My dream was to get to the Olympics but I didn’t know how. I thought of indoor cycling, sprint cycling was the first thing that attracted me but then I met Mona Pretorius and she taught me the basic techniques of weightlifting. In 2005 and in 2006, I went for my first Nationals. Then moved back to JHB, where Andrew Anthony was my coach. He helped me a lot in that time and was my coach until 2009, where I ended up representing South Africa at the Commonwealth Youth Games, where I won a bronze medal. In 2009, I decided after trying to study, to go into professional weightlifting. So, I competed professionally for about three years and in 2009 I moved back down to Cape Town to train with the National coach, Aveenash Pando. Since then, I have been training with him at Hottentots Weightlifting Club and trying to build my own business to get financial support.

JOFFE: Been through quite a lot and South African weightlifting in general -  is it in a healthy state?

GREEFF: Well, I must say there is a lot of politics in weightlifting but I believe in the next four years we will actually have a healthy state of weightlifting, where there would be at least 5-10 people in each division. At the moment, there isn't any competition really in our country. But with the right development and the right people at the top handling the politics, hopefully in the next five years, we will be in a position where we have a lot of competition and really up and coming athletes.

JOFFE: And Jean, being your first Olympic Games, can we expect a medal from you in London? Big expectations I know.
GREEFF: Ja, that is a big expectation for me but my biggest dream at the moment, is basically to get experience. My goal is 2016 or 2020. One of my sponsors is Macsteel and I work with them quite closely. My goal is actually 2020, to go for a gold but 2016 to be in the top five. These Games are a bonus to get the experience as I didn’t think I would make the team.
But miracles do happen.

JOFFE: They sure do and you got to have a lotto ticket to win the lottery. So, wishing you all the best for the London Olympics and do South Africa proud.
GREEFF: Thanks very much Graeme.

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 Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy