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Team SA will always be going for gold

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SA secured 37 medals at the 2018 edition in Gold Coast, Australia – 13 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze, and as usual, swimming (six) and athletics (five) were the main contributors to the champions group.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Women’s 200m Breaststroke – Heats – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa reacts after setting an Olympic record. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

WHILE Team South Africa are sure to bring home a whole host of medals from the Commonwealth Games, who are the possible golden men and women for Mzansi?

SA secured 37 medals at the 2018 edition in Gold Coast, Australia – 13 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze, and as usual, swimming (six) and athletics (five) were the main contributors to the champions group.

But it is unlikely that Team SA will reach those heights in this year’s Games in Birmingham, where the competition kicks off today following last night’s opening ceremony.

For starters, three 2018 gold medallists – Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga (both athletics), as well as swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, are not in the UK this time around, while 400m world record-holder and Rio Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk didn’t qualify in time, despite finishing fifth at last week’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Veteran swimmer Chad le Clos achieved the butterfly triple gold in 2018, but while he just needs two more medals to become the most decorated athlete in Games history with 19 gongs, it remains to be seen whether he can reach the top of the podium once more in Birmingham, especially after battling with bronchitis this year, which saw him hospitalised at one stage.

But he is ultra-competitive, and the 30-year-old knows how to raise his game on the big stage, so don’t rule him out entirely.

His swimming teammate, Tatjana Schoenmaker, will also have a bit of a point to prove in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke after opting to sit out of the recent Fina World Championships in Hungary, in order to be better prepared for the Commonwealth Games by doing “proper base training”, according to coach Rocco Meiring.

Schoenmaker is the 200m breaststroke Olympic champion, though, and won a silver in the 100m as well in Tokyo. She announced her arrival on the world stage at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she won gold medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events.

The 25-year-old has also entered the 50m breaststroke event in Birmingham, with the heats later today and the final tomorrow night. The 100m final is on Tuesday and the 200m decider next Sunday.

Apart from Schoenmaker and Le Clos, an outside bet for a gold medal will be Matthew Sates in a whole host of events from the 100m freestyle to the 400m individual medley, as well as youngster Pieter Coetze (freestyle, backstroke and butterfly).

On the athletics front, Akani Simbine is the main hope for a gold medal in the 100m final, which takes place next Wednesday. The speedster won the 2018 event, but may not have silver medallist Henricho Bruintjies alongside him as the latter initially withdrew from Birmingham, but that was rejected by Athletics SA.

Simbine is also part of the 4x100m relay team that also includes Clarence Munyai, Gift Leotlela and Emile Erasmus, who will look to improve significantly from their sixth-place finish at the recent world championships.

Young sensation Prudence Sekgodiso is an outside bet in the women’s 800m, where her main rivals will be Briton’s world championship silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson and bronze medallist Mary Moraa of Kenya.

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