4 August 2014
Team South Africa finished the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Sunday with a total haul of 40 medals, made up of 13 golds, 10 silvers and 17 bronze medals.
While it was an improvement over the 33 medals won in Delhi in 2010, the team failed to replicate its fifth-place finish in the medal standings, instead finishing in seventh place this time around.
The final weekend began in golden fashion for South Africa, and it was the lawn bowlers that continued to deliver the goods as Colleen Piketh and Tracy-Lee Botha combined for a tense victory over England in the women’s pairs.
It came down to an extra end after the teams were tied at 17-17 after 18 ends, but Piketh and Botha then showed their mettle to claim three more shots and the title.
‘The best feeling ever’
“Just the fact that you do all the hard work, and all the preparation, and the fact that you can actually compete on the world stage and come out on top is the best feeling ever,” Piketh said in a post-final interview.
Botha, who won two gold medals, said it was all about teamwork. “They both came in team disciplines and it is because of the team that I am sitting with two golds around my neck.
“I couldn’t be more honoured and more proud of the lawn bowls in South Africa as well,” she added.
With a Commonwealth Games record of five gold medals and two bronze medals, South Africa convincingly topped the lawn bowls’ medal table and contributed nearly half of the country’s title wins.
Triple jump gold
On Saturday at Hampden Park, rain did not stop Khotso Mokoena producing an outstanding triple jump of 17.20 metres to capture the gold medal. That distance, a season’s best, was only five centimetres short of his career best, which is also the South African record, set way back in April 2005.
Mokoena won a silver medal in the triple jump at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, but then chose to concentrate on long jump the following year. This year, he returned to the triple jump.
“I think I’m much stronger now,” he reflected after his win in Glasgow. “I didn’t have a full season as I only started training three weeks before Nationals. To be frank, I’m not in shape at all, but Emmarie Fouche, his coach was able to sharpen me to get me to this level, which is awesome.
“I’ve had a long career. I was down and tired and at the end of last year I wanted to quit, but Emmarie said I still have a chance. I looked at Dwight Phillips, who was still able to jump 8.6 metres at the age of 32 and 33. Now I’m back and hungry again.”
Expressing his surprise at his superb showing, Mokoena concluded: “I didn’t expect to jump 17 metres this year. She put me through that. I felt I could have jumped 17.40 for a national record today, but I think I was just too excited.”
Pipped on the finishing line
Johan Cronje ran a good race in a tactical, slow 1 500 metres final, but was pipped on the finishing line by New Zealand’s Nick Willis for the bronze medal.
Kenya’s James Magut took the win a 3:39.31, with his team-mate Ronald Kwemoi in second place in 3:39.53 and Willis, who finished at an astonishing pace, third in 3:39.60. Cronje, who won bronze at the IAAF World Championships last year, was a mere five-hundredths of a second behind the Kiwi.
The South African men’s 4 x 100m relay team ran a national record 38.35 seconds in the final of the event, but had to settle for fourth place. Jamaica, predictably, took the win in 37.58, with England in second and Trinidad and Tobago third.
”I have the medal potential’
After finishing 15th in the time trial, cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio had told reporters: “I really hadn’t focused on this event. It’s the road race where I have the medal potential.”
Those words proved prophetic as she claimed the bronze medal in a dramatic dice for the line with Australia’s Tiffany Cromwell. A photo was needed to determine who had crossed the line first and it showed that it was the South African by the tiniest of margins.
England’s Lizzie Armitstead took the gold, with her team-mate Emma Pooley claiming the silver after the pair had worked very effectively together once a breakaway of seven riders had taken place.
“I was concerned at the finish, and I really did not think that I had finished third, and I felt a bit down, and when I saw the photo-finish photo, I just couldn’t believe it,” Moolman Pasio said afterwards.
“When we crossed the finish line, I just lunged and threw my bike and that’s what made all the difference.”
Tulani Mbenge claimed a bronze medal in the welterweight division of the boxing competition. He scored wins over Samoa’s Henry Tyrell, Kenya’s Rayton Okwiri and Guyana’s Eon Bancroft before going down to England’s Scott Fitzgerald in the semi- finals.
Mbenge started confidently against the Englishman, moving well and finding his range early. Fitzgerald, however, appeared to rattle the South Africa’s rhythm by crowding him and moving forward. Nonetheless, it was a first boxing medal for South Africa since the 2006 Melbourne Games.
The South African women’s hockey team missed out on a medal when they fell 2-5 to New Zealand in a playoff for the bronze medal.
The men’s team finished in fifth place. Down 2-3 to Canada in their final match, they turned on the style in the later stages of the contest to run out convincing 7-3 winners.
While bowls proved to be South Africa’s best source of gold medals in Glasgow, swimming produced 12 medals in total, including three gold, three silver and six bronze medals, which was good for fourth on the medal table, and good for the third most medals won.
What is a little concerning, however, is that Chad le Clos was part of seven of the medals won, and some questions about the depth of South African swimming have been raised.
On a positive note, track and field athletes delivered a much improved performance on their results of 2010 in India, finishing sixth on the table, after claiming three gold, four silver and two bronze medals, a total of nine in all.
In Delhi, the team won two gold, two silver and one bronze medal and finished eighth.
Javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, although not a title winner, deserves special mention. After winning gold medals in Melbourne in 2006 and Delhi in 2010, she added a silver medal to her outstanding Commonwealth Games medal collection, underlining her sustained excellence over a long period of time.