SA up medal tally in Melbourne

20 March 2006

After opening their Commonwealth Games medal challenge with a title winning performance in the men’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay, Team South Africa has continued picking up medals in Melbourne, mostly in the swimming pool.

Natalie du Toit, after setting a world record in qualifying for the final of the 50 metres freestyle for elite athletes with a disability (EAD), went on to claim gold in the final in another world record time of 29.27.

Speaking after her win, Du Toit said her goal remains to make it to the Olympic Games as an able-bodied competitor.

Also on Friday, Lize-Mari Retief captured bronze in the women’s 50 metres butterfly after dead-heating with Alice Mills in 26.78 for the final medal.

In the men’s 50 metres backstroke, Gerhard Zandberg, a member of SA’s 4x100m freestyle relay team, took third place in 25.16.

Three more swimming medals
On Saturday, Team SA picked up four medals, three of them in the swimming pool.

Sprint superstar Roland Schoeman added the Commonwealth title to the World Championship title he won in 50 metres butterfly, touching in 23.34 seconds. It was some way off his world record of 22.96 that he swam in Montreal last year.

George du Rand picked up a silver medal in the 200 metres backstroke, finishing in 2:00.32.

Suzaan van Biljon added a bronze medal to the country’s haul from the swimming pool, turning in a time of 2:25.39 in the women’s 200 metres breaststroke final.

There was further success for South Africa in shooting as the men’s 25 metres standard pistol pairs team laid claim to the bronze medal.

Gold for Natalie
On Sunday, Natalie du Toit won her second gold medal of the championships, clocking 1:01.81 to take victory in the EAD 100 metres freestyle.

Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling, like they did at the World Championships, had to settle for silver and bronze in the men’s 100 metres freestyle, except this time around it was Neethling who won the silver.

England’s Simon Burnett won the race in 48.57, ahead of Neethling’s 49.20 and Schoeman’s 49.24. Afterwards, Burnett, who trains with Schoeman at Arizona University, credited the South African ace for his huge improvement in the event, saying Schoeman had helped him tremendously, including assistance with improving his stroke.

Javelin gold
In athletics, Sunette Viljoen struck gold in the women’s javelin, throwing 60.72 metres, just 87 centimetres shy of her career-best throw.

It was a fantastic turnaround for the 22-year-old athlete, who in 2005 faced a possible two-year drug ban for failing a drug test after returning abnormally high hormone levels. It was subsequently discovered that she was seven months pregnant and she was cleared of the charge.

Besides the medal winning performances, there were further good showings from South African swimmers. Lauren Roets posted an African record 25.64 in the 50 metres freestyle heats, Gerhard Zandberg also swam an African record, clocking 55.41 in the 100 metres backstroke semi-finals, and Wendy Trott recorded an African record 8:39.19 in the final of the women’s 800 metres freestyle as she finished fifth.

Hockey draws
In hockey, the South African men’s team, after opening their challenge with a 6-1 pounding of Trinidad and Tobago, were held to a one-all draw by Pakistan.

Paul Revington’s charges were just 90 seconds from a stunning upset of the highly fancied Pakistanis after Reece Basson put them ahead in the fifty-second minute by beating three men and then slamming his shot across goalkeeper Salman Akbar into the net. However, Syed Imran Warsi netted a late penalty corner to earn Pakistan a share of the spoils.

The women’s hockey side experienced a similar fate. They began their competition with a 4-1 win over Nigeria and then faced India.

They led the defending champions two-nil after early goals from two early goals from Henriette du Buisson. The Indians, though, pulled one back through Subhadra Pradhan and then, in the last minute, Pradhan smashed in a second penalty corner to make the final score two-all.