By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
The curtain came down on Team South Africa’s African Games campaign here on Friday.
The team’s final evening in Congo was celebrated at an exclusive South African medal celebration alongside the Games dining room where SASCOC President Gideon Sam was there to congratulate all and sundry.
He was joined by South African ambassador Richard Baloyi, SASCOC Board member Motlatsi Keikabile and the host, Mrs Marie Christine Giblot-Ducray, whose Africa Events and Catering company ensured that a steady stream of sports people were fed throughout the day.
First medal came on Saturday 5 September when little Kirsten Beckett, almost a year after successful shoulder surgery, won the women’s all-around competition at the Makelekele Complex on the outskirts of the city.
The final medal went to wrestling’s Gert Coetzee in the 61kg freestyle category. He was the only one of three wrestlers in action on the final day to medal although Armando Hietbrink and Martin Erasmus were also in possible medal action.
He beat Chad’s Allouma Kouzoumbi 10-1 (technical superiority). ‘It wasn’t my most difficult fight and I’m happy to win a medal here,’ said the 25-year-old blasting instructor from Rustenberg, North West.
And indeed, Coetzee did have a blast. ‘This was my first African Games and I really had a good time!’
When all was done and dusted Team South Africa, under the energetic Ezera Tshabangu, team Chef de Mission, had come together as one to win a total of 122 medals … 41 gold, 41 silver and 40 bronze medals with 15 different sporting codes being contested. The only codes not to win a medal were football (through no fault of their own as they were eliminated by ‘unlucky’ draw), table tennis and para-powerlifting.
Speaking at the medal celebration, President Sam thanked the team and made a point of saying how well the team had done under the circumstances.
‘I want the best treatment for our athletes, and this is not your fault, the fault lies with the way we do things. Sometimes we just have to accept that in competitions there are shortcomings.
‘You have all, under the conditions experienced, done the very best you can. Coaches and athletes have tried their very best. It would seem we have finished third or fourth on the medals table because we didn’t win enough gold medals to put us higher.
‘But people back home are talking about the team and your efforts have been noticed. This is all part of the road to Rio next year, and onwards to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and finally back home for the big one, the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban!’
Sam went on to lament the funding for sport in SA. ‘Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics we have, amongst many things, made sure that teams leaving our shores, have a top class medical team with them, and that they look good in the march past at opening ceremonies.
‘All in all it’s still mission accomplished in my eyes. Some you win, some you lose. Go back home to your family, wives, husbands and friends and hold your head high.
‘When I go back and report to the SASCOC Board at next week’s Annual General Meeting, I will tell the Board that you all did yourselves proud.’