19 August 2004
Roland Schoeman won a second medal for South Africa in the swimming pool at the Athens Olympics, picking up silver in the men’s 100 metres freestyle. It was oh so close too, as Dutch star Pieter van den Hoogenband successfully defended his title in 48.17 seconds to Schoeman’s 48.23.
It was a sensational performance from the South African star, previously regarded as a 50 metres specialist. He was well backed up by close friend Ryk Neethling, who swam 48.63 to finish just outside of the medals in fourth spot, with Australia’s Ian Thorpe adding a bronze to his already sizeable collection of Olympic medals.
The second and fourth place finishes for the two South Africans underlined the country’s strength in the event – clear for all to see in Sunday’s world record performance in the four-by-100 freestyle relay.
“You spend your whole life dreaming of getting to the Olympics, let alone winning gold and silver”, Schoeman said after the race. “Some people may say I lost gold, but I won silver.”
Parkin misses out
Terence Parkin won silver in the 200 metres breaststroke at the Sydney Games, but he won’t have a shot at repeating that result in Athens. Swimming in the semi-finals, Parkin managed only a seventh-place finish in his heat, in a time of 2:14.12. His silver medal winning time four years ago was 2:12.50.
Gerhard Zandberg swam in the semi-finals of the men’s 100 metres backstroke, but failed to progress to the final. That result is not a train smash, though, as Zandberg is a 50 metres specialist.
Rowing medal hopes
There are still strong hopes that rowers Donovan Cech and Ramon Di Clemente can come through with a medal winning performance in the men’s 1 500-metre pairs. After beating the Croatian World Championship silver medalists in the heats, the SA pair scraped into the final in a very tough semi-final heat.
It was neck-and-neck with the Canadians for the third place necessary to qualify for the final when the two crews touched oars. The Canadians were found to have infringed by crossing into the South Africans, and Cech and Di Clemente were awarded third spot. As bronze medal winners at the World Championships, they will be keen to add an Olympic medal to their collection.
Gareth Blanckenberg, sailing in blustery conditions in the laser class, struggled to make his mark. Ranked fifth in the world, he managed twenty-second place in the first race, sixteenth in the second, thirty-first in third, and thirteenth in the fourth. That was good enough for nineteenth position overall.
Lewis eliminated in last sixteen
Archer Kirsten Lewis advanced to the last sixteen in the women’s 70 metre competition after edging India’s Sharma Sumangala 157-153 in the round of 32. However, the fifty-second ranked Lewis had a tremendous run cut short in the quarterfinals by China’s Ying He, who triumphed 156-142.
The men’s hockey team, like Lewis, also faced Indian competition on Tuesday, and just 12 minutes into the game Craig Jackson and company were flying high. Goals by Greg Nicol and Craig Fulton had them two-up.
At half time South Africa was still in charge at two-one ahead, but after the break India started dominating territory and possession, although South Africa made some incisive counter-attacks without making any count.
The Indian dominance was eventually made to count as they leveled at two-all. And then, heartbreak in the final 90 seconds as Indian netted twice to steal a 4-2 victory, a scoreline that was ultimately very misleading.
More hockey disappointment
The SA women’s hockey team’s disappointing run continued with another sound defeat, this time to South Korea. After losses by 6-2 to The Netherlands and 3-0 to Australia, Susan Webber and company were in need of a good result, if only for a boost to the spirits, but it wasn’t to be.
The Koreans dominated the game and secured a deserved 3-0 victory as South Africa were curiously toothless up front. Where they really disappointed was in the effeciency of their penalty corner, which lacked accuracy in an area so vital to success in the international game.
Badminton: steep learning curve
Athens 2004 has proved to be a harsh learning experience for South Africa’s badminton players, who played in the Thomas and Uber Cups (World Championships) for the first time this year.
Chris Dednam and Antoinette Uys bowed out of the mixed doubles in the round of 32, losing 15-3, 15-9 to Taipei, while Michelle Edwards lost 11-6, 11-3 to India’s Aparna Popat.
The rest of the team’s results were even bigger losses. Dednam won only one point as he succumbed to Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana in the men’s singles, Michelle Edwards and Chantal Botts were whitewashed 15-0, 15-0 by Germany in the women’s doubles, and Dorian James and Stewart Carson won only five points against the USA in the men’s doubles.
Competition on the beach
South Africa’s beach volleyball players have put in a good showing, and proved to be nicely competitive.
The men’s combination of Gershon Rorich and Colin Pocock beat Greece’s Pavlos Beligratis and Athanasios Michalopoulos 21-16, 24-26, 15-10 in a classic tussle, then fell to Argentina’s Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde 21-14, 21-15.
In women’s action, Leigh-Ann Naidoo and Julia Willand went down 21-7, 21-10 to second-seeds Behar and Bede of Brazil. They then turned in a great performance against highly-rated Cubans Tamara Peraza and Dalixia Grasset, losing 21-19, 21-16.
Boxers: so close yet so far
South Africa’s boxers disappointed, although middleweight Khotso Mutau’s disappointment was that he didn’t close out a victory over World Championship silver medal winner Oleg Mashkin of Ukraine.
Mutau started strongly and enjoyed a four-point lead heading into the final round at 19-15. Mashkin, however, came on strong at the end as Mutau tired to take a 25-22 win.
Lightweight Bongani “Wonderboy” Mahlangu came up short against Rovshan Huseynow, losing 22-14 on points, while featherweight Ludumo Galada, lost to Shahin Imranov when the referee stopped the fight in the third round.
Cyclists, fencers struggle
Cyclist Ryan Cox did well to finish in sixty-ninth place in the men’s road race, facing a field littered with top-class athletes, many of whom featured prominently in the recent Tour de France. There was disappointment for Tiaan Kannemeyer and Robbie Hunter, though, as neither finished the event.
South Africa’s sole female cycling representative, Anriette Schoeman, struggled with the heat and managed only fifty-fifth place.
South Africa’s fencers also struggled, with all three – Rachel Barlow, Kelly Wilson and Natalie Tychler – losing in the round of 64 in the Epee competition.
Gymnast Zandre Labuschagne managed sixtieth in qualification for the women’s all round competition.