Olympics ‘phenomenal, humbling’: Oscar

11 August 2012

South Africa’s men’s 4 by 400 metres relay team failed to challenge for a medal at the London Olympic Games on Friday evening as the Bahamas ran a national record in staging a come-from-behind victory over the USA.

The islanders won gold in 2:56.72, with the USA second in 2:57.05 and Trinidad and Tobago in third, over two seconds further back.

South Africa, the silver medal winners at last year’s IAAF World Championship in Daegu, South Korea, never challenged and finished in eighth place in the nine-team field, with Cuba failing to finish.

Season’s best time

Nonetheless, the quartet of Shaun de Jager, LJ van Zyl, Willem de Beer and Oscar Pistorius ran a season’s best 3:03.46. It was, however, more than four seconds slower than their effort in Daegu.

South Africa had reached the final after an appeal was upheld for a Kenyan runner tripping up Ofentse Mogawane in the semi-finals, resulting in the South Africans being given lane one for Friday evening’s relay.

Mogawane could not run on Friday night after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the semi-finals. His replacement, 400 metres hurdler LJ van Zyl, nearly didn’t make it to the final either.

“I was actually on my way to the airport,” he told reporters after the race. “Then I got the call from Hezekiel [Sepeng], our team leader, [saying] that I have to come back.”

Roller-coaster journey

Pistorius said it had been a roller-coaster journey for the team. “So many mixed emotions yesterday, to be honest,” he said.

“We got back to the warm up track to cool down and we heard that Kenya had been disqualified and there were grounds for us to put in a protest, so team management went through with that and we found out last night that we would have the chance to run in the ninth lane today,” Pistorius said.

“We didn’t want to run if we were going to take another team out, but there was an extra lane here and they gave us that lane because we were in second position at the World Championships last year.

“We got reinstated and LJ van Zyl was on his way to the airport and he got called back to come and run.

“So, just a mix of emotions, and I’d like to thank Ofentse [Mogawane],” Pistorius said. “He’s not here with us and he is making a quick recovery, but he was as much part of our team [as anyone else].

‘This whole experience has been phenomenal’

“This whole experience has been phenomenal for us. To step out here for an Olympic final is more than I could ever hope for, and it was a truly humbling experience.”

Commenting on running the final leg, Pistorius said: “I think running the anchor leg for me was kind of stressful. I’m never usually given that much responsibility, but representing my country and knowing that I have to bring home the baton really made me run a little bit harder.

“I think I had a lot of work to do to catch up, but I ran a good back straight and second corner. Then, coming into the home straight, there was just a little too much work [to do].

“I’m very proud of my team,” Pistorius said. “They did a phenomenal job with what we had. That opportunity to come out here and finish like today and not like yesterday was a dream come true.”

Talking about the Olympic experience, Pistorius added: “Every athlete out here trains as hard as they possibly can for four years. They sacrifice a lot.

“For me to come out here and know that all the hard work I’ve put in, and all the time and effort so many people have given me and they’ve invested in me has paid off, has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I’ve got so many people to thank for that.

“It inspires me and motivates me for the next four years, looking to Rio.”

Eyes now on Semenya, Stander

South Africa’s hopes of adding to the country’s three gold medals, one silver medal and a bronze medal will rest on the shoulders of Caster Semenya on Saturday evening.

She contests the final of the 800 metres at nine o’clock, having run the fastest time of the semi-finals, stopping the clock in 1:57.67.

On Sunday, Burry Stander, ranked fourth in the world in cross-country mountain biking, has a shot at a medal.

A medal for either athlete would make the London 2012 Olympic Games the most successful Olympics for South Africa since the country was readmitted to the Olympic fold in 1992.

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