South Africa’s Rio 2016 Medallists – An Interesting Bunch

South Africa’s Rio 2016 Medallists – An Interesting Bunch

The Olympic Games have come to a close, and Team South Africa’s Rio 2016 medallists managed a 10-medal tally that has pleased the sports-loving fans of their country.

The likes of Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh have won medals in the pool, while athletics stars such as Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya have delivered on the athletics track.

These sports stars are now household names for their prowess in the disciplines they have dedicated their lives to mastering, but there are some interesting bits of information about these decorated individuals that few people know.

Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about South Africa’s Rio 2016 medallists.

Wayde van Niekerk

Before he was an Olympic gold medallist and national hero, Van Niekerk was already showing that he had the chops to be an excellent role model.

In May this year the 400m specialist donated $35,300 to Groote Schuur Hospital’s neonatal unit as part of his Sportsman of Year prize money.

Van Niekerk was born premature and was cared for by the hospital’s neonatal unit, so the donation was important for the 25-year-old with a big heart.

He will no doubt be one of the Rio 2016 medallists who will go on to forge an incredible athletics career, and is expected to try and go sub-43 seconds in his specialist event in future, which would mean shaving three second off of his own world record.

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Chad Le Clos

While South Africa’s most decorated Olympian dedicates most of his time to swimming, Chad Le Clos also has a passion for football, and supports Manchester United.

He says that he would love to train with footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, but admits that he has played very little football in recent years because he does not risk injury by playing other sports outside of competitive swimming.

Caster Semenya

The 25-year-old is known for her blistering pace around the track in her favoured 800m race, but the Rio 2016 gold medallist is also a traditional romantic.

This was proven when she wed long-time girlfriend Violet Raseboya at the end of last year in a traditional wedding ceremony in Ga-Dikgale in the Capricorn District of Limpopo.

She received a hero’s welcome alongside her Team SA colleagues upon her return to South Africa from the Olympics, and that love and support will no doubt spur her on to preparing for another successful Games in Tokyo four years from now.

on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Caster Semenya made South Africa proud in Rio de Janeiro.

Luvo Manyonga

Manyonga’s journey to becoming a silver medallist long jumper for South Africa is an inspiring one, as many believed he would not be alive to take part in the 2016 Olympics.

The youngster has overcome crystal meth addiction to feature as a decorated member of Team SA, thanks to hard work, determination and the belief shown in his ability from coaches who cared about him as a person as much as an athlete.

Cameron van der Burgh

The experienced swimmer and 100 breaststroke silver medallist has always been a motivated and determined sportsman, which are two characteristics that are important for any Olympian.

In his Crawford Pretoria high school yearbook, the class of 2006 alumni wrote the words, “Just keep on keeping on,” displaying his attitude to putting one’s head down and getting the hard work done. That attitude has taken him to three Olympic Games competitions.

Sunette Viljoen

As is often the case with sports personalities, Sunette Viljoen’s talents on the sports field are not restricted to the javelin throw, for which she became one of the Rio 2016 medallists.

The javelin silver medallist from the recently-concluded Games has also represented South Africa in cricket, playing for the women’s national team between 2000 and 2002, and she was even included in the 2000 World Cup cricket squad in New Zealand.

Sunette Viljoen - 10-medal objective
SA’s Sunette Viljoen wins silver in the javelin event – timeslive.co.za

Lawrence Brittain

Another comeback story on this list belongs to one of the rowing duo that won South Africa a silver medal in Rio.

Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain won the men’s pair silver medal for their country, and for Brittain in particular, the victory symbolised far more than a simple sporting triumph.

He was diagnosed with lymph node cancer two years ago, and immediately underwent chemotherapy to treat the illness, which he was subsequently able to beat. He went from fighting cancer to winning a silver medal for his country – absolutely incredible.

Henri Schoeman

While many expected team-mate Richard Murray to get onto the podium in the men’s triathlon, youngster Henri Schoeman surprised many by earning a bronze as he finished third, seven seconds ahead of Murray.

Interestingly, while many of the world’s top triathletes have professional coaches, the athlete is coached by his father, Joe Schoeman, and he no doubt made Dad proud with his bronze medal in Rio.