SA’s top performing sports in 2002

27 December 2002

South African sportsmen and sportswomen turned in some notable performances during 2002. In a number of sports the achievements were especially good, and here we acknowledge those sports that brought honour to the country and to the individuals that shone.

ATHLETICS

South African athletics scores a deserved A for 2003 thanks to some star performers on the world stage and an excellent showing at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Gold medal winners in Manchester were:

 

  • Frantz Kruger – men’s discus – 66.39m (Games record)
  • Mbulaeni Mulaudzi – men’s 800m – 1:46:32
  • Shaun Bownes – men’s 110m hurdles – 13.35
  • Okkert Brits – men’s pole vault – 5.75m
  • Hestrie Cloete – women’s high jump – 1.96mThere were further medals for Veroncia Abrahamse in the women’s shot putt (bronze), Janus Roberts in the men’s shot putt (silver) and Rory Field in the EAD 100 metres (bronze).

    Kruger and Cloete, meanwhile, finished the year ranked number two in the world in their respective events. Kruger also achieved the memorable milestone of cracking the 70-metre barrier with an African, Commonwealth and South African record throw of 70.32 metres in France in May. Cloete’s best jump of the year of 2.02 metres was bettered only by Kajsa Bergqvist. The world champion in 2001, Cloete again showed at the Commonwealth Games that she possesses a priceless commodity for world class athletes – big match temperament (BMT).

    800-metre star Mulaudzi, whose Commonwealth success was South Africa’s first on the track in 44 years, is the natural successor to former Olympic silver medal winner Hezekiel Sepeng. His best time of 2002 of 1:43:81 in Zurich was bettered by only six athletes.

    Shaun Bownes, with a best time of 13.31, seems to get better with age and he was especially good in indoor events, as was sprinter Morne Nagel, a disappointment at the Commonwealth Games, but a man who, nonetheless, enjoyed a very good year. Nagel dominated the European indoor season in the short sprints because of a superb start, but, surprisingly in light of this, it was in the 200 metres that he achieved one of his best performances of 2002. Competing in Germiston he clocked 20.10 to break Riaan Dempers’ long-standing national record by 0.05; only five athletes bettered his time during the year. His best time in the 100 metres was 10.13.

    Pole-vaulter Okkert Brits, one of only seven men in history to crack the magical six-metre barrier, after a number of seasons of disappointment and injury, finally started to show his capabilities again with three clearances of 5.75 metres during the year. His most impressive performance came at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester where he won gold with a clearance at that height in miserable, wet conditions. It put to rest the accusation that Brits lacked BMT after some below-par showings in previous big championships.

    Janus Roberts had a disappointing Commonwealth Games, winning silver with a put of 19.97 metres, well off his season’s best of 21.60 metres and well behind his best ever of 21.97 metres. However, that 21.60 put was bettered by only three athletes in 2002 and Roberts was ranked seventh in the world by the IAAF.

    Hammer thrower Chris Harmse, ranked number one in the Commonwealth, didn’t make the trip to Manchester because his event fell on a Sunday and it is against his religious beliefs to compete on that day. He did, however, provide one of the year’s highlights when he cracked the 80-metre mark and finished 2002 ranked tenth in the world.

    Some athletes that failed to make it to Manchester because of injuries were amongst the top performers of the year. The prodigiously talented 20-year old high jumper Jacques Freitag topped this list. His clearance of 2.37 metres in Durban was the year’s best and despite being sidelined for a long time with a serious ankle problem he finished 2002 ranked tenth in the world, a position that he will, discounting injury, quickly improve upon with more international competition.

    Others to shine included 400 metres hurdler Surita Febbraio-Loots, who is ranked eleventh by the IAAF and whose best time of 54.45 was bettered by only four athletes. In the men’s 400 metres hurdles Llewellyn Herbert and Alwyn Myburgh performed well and finished the year ranked eleventh and eighteenth respectively. Only three athletes ran faster than Herbert’s 48.02. Marcus La Grange was a star performer in the 400 metres, ranking sixteenth in the world, with a best time of 44.65 that only four athletes managed to beat.

    With youngsters LJ van Zyl (400 metres hurdles) and Werner Smit (hammer) winning gold medals at the IAAF World Junior Championships there is further cause for optimism for the future of athletics in South Africa. They, too, are part of the reason that athletics scores an A for 2002.

    BOWLS

    South Africa proved itself once again as one of the top lawn bowls playing nations with a successful showing at the Commonwealth Games, undoubtedly the biggest competition of the year, and featuring the top bowlers in the world.

    Bobby Donnelly achieved the highlight of the year by defeating world champion Jeremy Henry of Northern Ireland 21-15 to win gold in the prestigious men’s singles category. The men’s fours picked up silver, while the women’s pairs also finished second.

    In two Tests against England in Cape Town, South Africa drew 8-8 and then whitewashed the visitors 16-0 in the second meeting between the two sides. Australia, meanwhile, edged South Africa two-one in July.

    At the Hong Kong Classic the South African pairing of Eric Johannes and Clinton Roets were beaten in the semi-finals by New Zealand, going down by seven shots. The Kiwis subsequently crushed England by 20 shots to win the title.

    Although the Commonwealth success didn’t quite match up to the haul of 1998 in Kuala Lumpur when South Africa won two gold and three bronze medals, finishing in a podium position in five out of six competitions, it was a very good year for South Africa regardless. The country once more confirmed itself amongst the elite bowls playing nations of the world and for this South Africa’s bowlers earned a deserved A for 2002.

    BOXING

    Although South African boxing could boast no world champions amongst the big four world organisations of the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO in 2002, there were nonetheless some sparkling performances and performers.

    Probably the country’s top boxer was junior-lightweight Philip Ndou. He was highly ranked by all four of the organisations at the end of the year: the only South African boxer to achieve this. For the record the WBC ranked Ndou second, the WBA third, the IBF seventh, and the WBO fourth.

    Ndou fought four times in 2002, defeating Vincente Luis, Nikolai Eremeev, Claudio Martinet and Andre Devvyatakykin, all by knockout to lift his record to 29 wins in 30 fights, 28 of his victories coming by knockout.

    Although inexperienced, IBO bantamweight champion Silence Mabuza continued to impress. He recorded wins over Jose Sanjuanelo, Javis Torres and Zolile Mbityi to raise his perfect record to 13-0 with 12 KOs. When former IBF junior featherweight title holder Vuyani Bungu returned to action for a fight against Lehlo Ledwaba rumours were rife that Mabuza, who was one of Bungu’s sparring partners, was giving Bungu a hiding in training.

    Mabuza is a slick, classy fighter who might just realise the claim made by top fight promoter Rodney Berman, who said his charge could become the best boxer to come out of Africa since Azumah Nelson. For the record, Nelson won three world titles and was a world champion for almost six years before suffering a loss. He then went on to win another world title in his next bout and reigned for a further four years.

    After being inactive for almost a year, heavyweight Corrie Sanders fought Otis Tisdale in November and easily dispatched the American on a second round knockout to notch up his thirty-eighth win, 28 of those coming by KO.

    In another notable bout involving South African boxers, Mzukisi Sikali defeated Hawk Makepula on points in a hyped featherweight showdown to win the IBO title.

    Cassius Baloyi, after suffering the only loss of his career to Philip Ndou in 2001’s fight of the year, took to the ring twice in 2002, beating Tiger Ari to win the IBO super-featherweight belt, and then defeated former IBF bantamweight and featherweight champion Mbulelo Botile on an eleventh round stoppage.

    Besides Philip Ndou the following South African boxers were ranked by the big four organisations at the end of 2002:

     

  • Frans Botha – 6th heavyweight WBO
  • Sebastiaan Rothman – 7th cruiserweight WBC
  • Dingaan Thobela – 8th super-middleweight WBC
  • Lehlo Ledwaba – 10th junior-featherweight WBC
  • Hawk Makepula – 4th junior-flyweight WBAIn total, an amazing 26 world title fights involved South African pugilists.

    2002 was a good year for South African amateur boxing. Three boxers won medals at the Commonwealth Games, improving on the one bronze won by Phumzile Matyhila at the 1998 Games.

    Veteran Danie Venter showed that perseverance pays off by picking up bronze in the light-heavyweight division, while Lubabalo Msutu equalled that effort in the flyweight division. The top performance went to welterweight Kwanele Zule who captured silver.

    Thanks to the successes of these amateurs, South African boxing’s rating for 2002 is an impressive B-plus. The emergence of a world champion of one of the main organisations – and there are some good candidates – would help improve this mark in 2003.

    GOLF

    Led by Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, South African golf enjoyed a fine year in 2002. Els showed his ability and talent by winning all around the world, capturing six titles: the Heineken Classic (Aus), Dubai Desert Classic (UAE), Cisco World Matchplay (UK), Genuity Championships (USA), Nedbank Challenge (RSA), and the biggest win of all, the British Open (UK) for his third major title.

    In a memorable year, The Big Easy finished third on the European Order of Merit and fifth on the US PGA Order of Merit.

    Top spot on the European Order of Merit went to Goosen for the second year in succession. He won twice, once on the European Tour in the Johnnie Walker Classic, and once in the USA in the BellSouth Classic. He also recorded runner-up finishes in the European Open, the WGC-American Express Championship, the Dunhill Championship and, most impressively, in the Masters. Besides finishing number one in Europe, he also managed to finish ninth in the USA.

    There was further reason for South African golf to smile, thanks to the performances of Trevor Immelman. He finished fourteenth on the European Order of Merit and was runner-up three times, in the Novotel Perrier Open de France, the Volvo Scandinavian Masters, and the Omega European Masters. In late 2002 he also finished third in the BMW Asian Open, strangely enough the first event of the 2003 European PGA season!

    Another player who shone was Tim Clark, who finished the year ranked sixtieth in the world, and won the Bell’s South African Open. After a slump in form in mid-year on the US PGA Tour, Clark came back strongly to record two sixth-place finishes in October, both worth a cool $119 787.50.

    Rory Sabbatini ended the year ranked ninety-third and although his results were a little less impressive than during the previous season he still came close to earning $1-million, a mark he reached in 2001. His best finish was a runner-up result in the Nissan Open, while a fifth-place finish at the Invensys Classic in mid-October boosted his earnings by a healthy $200 000.

    Late in the year, Clark and Sabbatini teamed up to defend the World Cup that Els and Goosen had won in 2001. Although they failed to lift the trophy for South Africa, the pair performed admirably, finishing in a tie for fifth-place.

    With Els and Goosen ranked in the top five of the world rankings at the end of 2002, it was a good year for South Africa. The performances of the two superstars, coupled with those of some of the lesser lights, meant South African golf earned an emphatic A grade.

    SURFING

    South African surfing enjoyed a fantastic year, mainly because of a superb team performance that won the World Surfing Games for the country in Durban. For the first time in 29 years South Africa were crowned world champions, out-pointing 29 other countries to win the title.

    In the same competition Travis Logie won the men’s open competition, while in the under-18 section Warwick Wright claimed the title, finishing just ahead of team-mate Ricky Basnett.

    Logie further impressed in Florianopolis, Brazil, when he won the four-star Petrobas Open. He also recorded a seventh-place finish in the six-star rated Onbongo Pro, while Greg Emslie made it all the way to the final where he had to settle for third-spot.

    Durbanite David Weare also recorded a top result on the World Qualifying Series tour, finishing fourth in the Billabong Irago Pro in Japan.

    On the women’s front Heather Clark continued to fly the South African flag high and finished high up in the World Championship Tour (WCT) standings in sixth-place. The Port Shepstone star continues to be South Africa’s most consistent performer on the world stage.

    The one criticism that I have of South African surfing in 2002 is that not one male surfer managed to qualify for the WCT that features the top 44 surfers in the world. However, the World Games success makes up for that disappointment and surfing, nonetheless, still earns an A in my book.

    SWIMMING

    Let’s get the mark for swimming out of the way early on: emphatically and deservedly an A. 2002 was a great year for South African swimming, highlighted by a strong showing at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester that was an improvement by light years over the results achieved four years previously in Kuala Lumpur.

    First mention must go to Natalie du Toit, who claimed a major honour by winning the first ever David Dixon award, awarded to the outstanding athlete of the Games. Du Toit, swimming in the multi-disability events, won two gold medals in the 50 metres and 100 metres EAD freestyle. However, far more impressive was her achievement in qualifying for the final of the 800 metres freestyle for able-bodied athletes. Her courage and determination were an inspiration and she garnered the accolades that she deserved from far and wide.

    Roland Schoeman also enjoyed an outstanding competition, winning the title of fastest man in the Commonwealth when he won gold in the 50 metres freestyle. In addition he won silver in the 50 metres butterfly and silver in the men’s four by 100 metres relay.

    Sarah Poewe picked up three medals, silvers in the 50 and 200 metres breaststroke, and bronze in the 100 metres of the same event. Unfortunately for South African swimming she chose to switch allegiances to Germany late in the year. The gold and two silver medals she subsequently won at the European short-course championships showed what a superb swimmer South Africa had lost.

    Other top performances from female swimmers included silver for Helene Muller in the 100 metres freestyle, silver for Mandy Loots in the 100 metres butterfly and silver for the 4 by 100 medley relay team.

    Other medal winners among the men were Gerhard Zandberg with a bronze in the 50 metres backstroke, Ryk Neethling with a bronze in the 100 metres freestyle (he swam the 1 500m in Kuala Lumpur!), Scott Field with a silver in the 100 metres EAD freestyle, and Terence Parkin with a silver in the 200 metres breaststroke.

    Comparing the results at the 2002 Commonwealth Games with those achieved in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 makes for good reading. In 1998 South Africa won only two silver medals (Ryk Neethling in the 1 500 metres and Brendan Dedekind in the 50 metres freestyle), while in Manchester they won 15 medals in the total, made up of three golds, nine silvers and three bronzes. Hearty congratulations are in order because it is only through very hard work and dedication that such improvements and achievements are realised.

    There were more top performances in other meets during the course of the year as well. Charlene Wittstock won gold in the 100 metres backstroke at the World Cup meet in Melbourne. She also won silver in the 200 metres backstroke, while Brett Peterson picked up a silver in the 50 metres breaststroke.

    In the World Short-Course Swimming Championships meet in Rio Wittstock won gold in the 200 metres backstroke, along with silvers in the 50 and 100 metres of the same event. Mandy Loots captured silvers in both the 100 and 200 metres butterfly, Ryk Neethling picked up bronze medals in the 50 and 100 metres freestyle, Theo Verster a bronze in the 200 metres individual medley, and Troyden Prinsloo a silver in the 1 500 metres.

    At the world’s largest open water swimming event, the Midmar Mile, Olympic silver medallist Terence Parkin fought off a stiff challenge from Gareth Fowler to win by just two seconds. The women’s title went to Hungarian Diana Hegedus, who successfully defended the title, winning by five seconds over Cheryl Townsend.

    Commonwealth swimming star Natalie du Toit finished fourth when Melissa Corfe passed her on the slipway at the end of the swim. However, at the prize giving Corfe gave her third-place award to Du Toit.

    South African swimming is looking healthy and strong and the good Commonwealth Games results attest to the improvement of the country’s swimmers. Many of those that performed well in the big championships were swimmers that have put in the hard work year in and year out and their perseverance was well rewarded. Their example should serve younger swimmers, and those from other sports, with big dreams and plans, well.