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KARABO NGOEPE and HOSEA RAMPHEKWA
HUGS AND KISSES were the order of the day yesterday at OR Tambo International Airport as family members of athletes representing South Africa at the Olympic Games in London bid them farewell.
Sport-loving South Africans turned out in their numbers to send the team off with song and dance. The athletes were overwhelmed by the large number of people who had gathered to see them. The family of young Banyana Banyana player, Robyn Moodaly, who hails from Pretoria, were also there to see off the in-demand player.
Robyn’s sister, Megan Moodaly, said the family was very excited and proud of her. The family always made sure they were at the airport when the team departed. “We also go to her every game to see her play,” she said.
Megan said the family was encouraging Robyn, who is wanted by overseas universities, to grab the opportunity with both hands. “We spur her on to go overseas and further her studies,” Megan said.
Robyn said she was very excited and happy with the support from her family and the public.
“We are the underdogs but we are going to give our best. I really want to play well because I am still in school and I want to get scouted. We want to come back with gold. It’s amazing to think there’s going to be role models that I look up to.”
The only walker in the team, 50km race walker Marc Mundell, was astonished by the huge turnout. The team was honoured to have the crowd at the airport, he said. “It is really wonderful to see so many South Africans here to encourage us to do our best.
“This kind of atmosphere is going to help develop younger athletes and help them dream and believe that anything is possible and that they can also be part of such an event,” said Mundell.
The team is well prepared and all their hard work will reflect in the number of medals they plan to bring back, he said. “We are going to make South Africa proud.”
Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini said she was excited to go to the Olympics although the team was arguably in the toughest group. But an upbeat Dlamini said the team was united as one. “When we all step on to the pitch we are all captains. We are all leading from the front.
It boils down to who wants it more and who has prepared better. It’s overwhelming to get such a reception and send-off.
“We wouldn’t be where we are had it not been for the support of our fellow South Africans.”
SA women’s hockey team captain Marsha Marescia was short for words to describe the atmosphere she had witnessed at the airport. “It’s been absolutely fantastic to see so many people behind us. It’s a truly special occasion to lead the team at the Olympics. We are not medal hopefuls. We’re going to compete for a place in the top eight.”
Head of LeadSA Yusuf Abramjee said they wanted to show the athletes that the whole country “was behind them as they prepare to do battle with the world’s best.
“We wanted to let them know that millions are behind them,” he said.
Abramjee added that if the team came back home with 12 or more medals, they were going to get a heroes’ welcome which would be coupled with a party fit for kings.