South Africa’s Olympic team is currently in Brazil for the Rio 2016 Games, with numerous medal hopefuls amongst the group of athletes sent to represent the country this year.
With a variety of sports in play, and athletes having prepared for this global competition for the last four years, the individuals and teams representing Team SA are determined to do well in Brazil.
Here are 12 things you should know about South Africa’s Olympic team.
The biggest ever South African contingent of 137 athletes is making an appearance at Rio 2016, with 39 of those in the athletics code. The men’s and women’s soccer teams have also qualified, as well as the men’s sevens rugby team, as South Africa takes the prize as the biggest team from Africa at these Games.
The men’s and women’s hockey teams, women’s sevens rugby team and numerous boxers qualified to take part in the Olympics for South Africa, but a decision was made to decline all qualification slots earned through continental qualifiers, except for some sports where continental qualification was the only available path. Team SA could have been far bigger.
The large South African contingent will be competing in a long list of sports at the Rio Games, including rowing, canoeing, gymnastics, golf, cycling and badmington, amongst many other disciplines.
Team SA is aiming to equal their best ever medal haul of 10 medals, with that record dating back to the Olympic Games of Antwerp 1920 and Helsinki 1952. With stars like Wayde Van Niekerk and Caster Semenya in the side, along with strong swimmers, rowing and sevens rugby teams, they are capable of achieving many medals.
Winning medalists and their coaches will receive a share of the final total funding pool, based on the gold, silver or bronze medals that they earn at the games, but the exact details are not yet clear. At London 2012 the South Africans received $32,000 for gold‚ $16‚000 for silver and $6,400 for bronze.
World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk was given the honour of leading Team South Africa as the Olympic flag bearer at the opening ceremony for Rio 2016. The 24-year-old athlete carried the South African flag into the stadium during the opening of the Olympic Games in Brazil.
Rugby Sevens is introduced to the Games for the first time. The Blitzboks are seeded second in the Olympic competition based on their performances in the past two years in World Sevens Series events. In both years the South Africans ended the season second behind Fiji, and will be aiming for a podium finish.
Brandon Stone and Jaco Van Zyl will compete in the men’s golf competition for Team SA in Rio, but the three top ranked South African golfers Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen will not be taking part in the Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.
With over 185,000 followers on Twitter, swimmer Chad Le Clos is the golden boy of South African swimming, and has the throngs of online fans to prove it. He is going for gold at Rio 2016, and will no doubt be active on social media during the Olympics.
The South African National Lotteries Commission has thrown their financial support behind Team SA, committing funds to support those representing the country in Brazil with a sponsorship valued at around $4.7 million. These funds are for the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games.
Rio 2016 will be South Africa’s seventh consecutive appearance at the Games in the post-apartheid era, since readmission to sport in 1992, and nineteenth overall in Summer Olympic history.
With athletes from various sporting pursuits working hard to achieve excellence in Brazil, and pushing themselves to their physical limits, the South Africans have brought a big medical team to the Games including A chief medical officer, three other doctors and 10 physiotherapists.