South Africa’s top female Olympians – part 2

12 August 2016

Team South Africa began its Rio Olympics campaign this week, and among the 137
athletes competing this year are some of the country’s outstanding female athletes,
representing a wide range of sporting disciplines. To celebrate Women’s Month, here
is a look at another five of the best.

Linda Motlhalo – football

At 18, Linda Motlhalo is one of Banyana Banyana’s youngest scoring sensations
and while Rio might be her biggest career moment so far, it definitely won’t be the
last. Hailing from Brandvlei, Randfontein’s hotbed of football talent, Motlhalo
dreams big yet is comfortable at her own pace.

The South African Football Association’s Fran Hilton-Smith calls her the future
of women’s football in South Africa. “What stands out about her is her big-match
temperament,” she told City Press. “From the first time I saw her, I
knew she was going places… Her tactical awareness at her age is very good and I
believe she is in good hands with (Banyana coach) Vera Pauw.”

Motlhalo has scored three goals in four games in South African colours, and is
not planning on stopping.

Janine van Wyk – football

Cool-headed veteran Janine van Wyk is leading Banyana at the Rio Olympics
this year, her second Olympics. As South African football’s most capped football
player (male and female), scoring 10 goals as defender in 160 games, she brings
confident leadership and creative talent to the Rio team.

While the prospect of Banyana making it to the next stage of the tournament
hangs in the balance – with losses to Sweden and China, and a gutsy draw against
hosts Brazil – Van Wyk is determined to make sure her teammates enjoy the
experience and, above all, use it to learn for the future.

Dominique Scott – athletics

When Dominique Scott begins the 10 000m race on Friday, 12 August, she’ll no doubt be thinking of South African runners who have tackled one of athletics’ more gruelling events before her: most notably Elena Meyer. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Meyer won South Africa’s first post-isolation medal. Scott was born in 1992.

The determined Capetonian has already built a formidable junior career,
winning two golds in the 2010 South African junior championships and going on to
show impressive progress as part of her American college team at the University of
Arkansas. Before leaving for Rio, she won both the 10 000m and 5 000m finals at the National College Athletics Association Outdoor championships.

Michelle Weber – open water marathon swimming

Michelle Weber is the only female swimmer representing South Africa in Rio
this year. Her marathon is on Monday, 15 August.

Weber, who underwent serious heart surgery three years ago, decided to
specialise in the more paced marathon events in lieu of shorter swims. The change
seems to have worked for her – Weber has won the 5km and 10km events at the
South African Senior Championships for three consecutive years.

Ashleigh Simon – golf

Ashleigh Simon shot to fame as one of South Africa’s prodigious young golfing
talents, becoming the youngest player to win the ladies’ South African Amateur
tournament, and the first player in over a century to win the ladies’ South African
Open title three times.

Since turning professional at the age of 18, Simon has participated in the US and British Opens, and is a regular on the European and American PGA tours, on which she has won six individual tournaments. Simon has also won numerous South Africa tournaments, and represented South Africa at the women’s golf World Cup for four consecutive years.

“Rio,” Simon told the Bedfordview and Edenvale community newspaper, “is going to be something different (from the normal professional circuit). Golf is an individual sport and (our doubles) team (with Paula Reto) will have to work together… It is important for golfers on the South African team to have a good short game.”

Source: South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee reporter

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