SA has poor Olympics record

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iol spt june4 Olympic Rings REUTERS South Africa's Olympians have secured just 19 medals  17 of which were bagged from only two sports, athletics and swimming.

South Africa's Olympic team will aim to reach their potential at this year's London Games after hitting a wall in Beijing four years ago.

Having returned to the Olympic fold in 1992, after serving a suspension of nearly 30 years during the Apartheid era, South Africa's Olympians have secured just 19 medals – 17 of which were bagged from only two sports, athletics and swimming.

Up to and including the 1960 Rome Olympics, the nation's last before a ban that stretched nearly three decades, South Africa had pocketed 51 medals since their first official participation at the 1908 Games in London.

The country's Olympic history began in 1904 when Len Taunyane, who was called Yamasani in the official results, and Jan Mashiani, penned in as Lentauw, became the first black Africans to enter the Games. They did so as individual participants, not officially representing the country.

Reports suggest the duo, who competed in the marathon, were in St Louis as part of a Boer War exhibit, where they were apparently paraded as tribesmen, despite being students at Free State University.

Taunyane finished ninth and Mashiani crossed the line in 12th position.

South Africa sent their first official delegation to the London Games in 1908, with athletes representing the nation for the first time in green with the Springbok emblem on the chest.

Sprinter Reg Walker made history at these Games, the first to be held in the English capital, when he won the men's 100 metres sprint – to become South Africa's first gold medallist – and marathon runner Charles Hefferon returned home with a silver medal.

The next Games in Stockholm in 1912 proved to be the nations’ most successful to date, in terms of gold medals, with four more added to the kitty.

The 1928 Games in Amsterdam was a watershed event, for both the Olympic movement and South Africa, as women were allowed to participate in track and field for the first time.

The country’s entire swimming team consisted of women, with the 4x100m freestyle quartet – Rhoda Rennie, Frederica van der Goes, Marie Redford and Kathleen Russell – securing the bronze medal.

High jumper Marjorie Clarke, who also bagged bronze, was the first woman to earn a medal for South Africa in track and field.

It took another 24 years for a South African woman to win a gold medal at the Games, with Esther Brand victorious in the high jump discipline at the 1952 showpiece in Helsinki.

Having been shut out ahead of the 1964 Games, for political reasons, South Africa made an emotional return at the Barcelona

showpiece in 1992.

Elana Meyer's lap of honour with Ethiopian Derartu Tulu after the women's 10 000m final provided a poignant moment as a white South African and a black African circled the track, sisters in arms, after netting silver and gold respectively.

Four years later, Hezekiel Sepeng became the first black South African to win an Olympic medal when he finished second in the men's 800m final and, days later, little known marathon runner Josiah Thugwane went one better by winning the men's marathon.

While South Africa did reasonably well to secure 16 medals at the three Games between 1996 and 2004, they hit a plateau, and their steady performances came to a sudden halt when the national team returned home from Beijing in 2008 with Khotso Mokoena's lone silver medal in the men's long jump.

They'll have a chance, however, to make amends when they return to London, the site of the country's first official participation, in an effort to get back on track. – Sapa


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