GO LONG: Khotso Mokoena will be one of South Africas main medal hopes at the London Olympics. Picture: Getty Images

Tim Whitfield

FORGET the Olympic creed. The most important thing about the Games has nothing to do with taking part – it IS all about winning, or at least getting a medal.

Despite all the politically correct rhetoric and polite speeches, the original spirit of Olympism has been replaced by the Olympic motto: Citius, altius, fortius.

The athletes, administrators and so-called Olympic family know that swifter, higher and stronger is all that really counts.

Any sportsman/woman worth a sponsorship contract will tell you they get up in the morning to be swifter, higher and stronger, rather than to experience the joy of taking part.

And the substantial financial incentives flow quickly toward those sportsmen in the “wins” column.

The Eddie the Eels will grab their 15 minutes in the headlines, but the world remembers, and compensates, the likes of Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz.

It is this pursuit of medals that caused Sascoc to react to the failure of Team South Africa in Beijing. It is also why, way back in February 2009, Sascoc president Gideon Sam got it right when he boldly announced South Africa’s target of 12 medals in 2012.

The Olympics collectively caters for 10500 competitors, but only hand over 906 medals, which means 90 percent of the 2012 Olympians will leave London with only the memory of having taken part – and for SA that figure is likely to be even higher.

Current world rankings and pre-Olympic performances suggest that Sam’s 12 from 12 target might have been wildly optimistic – his critics are predicting Team South Africa’s goal should have read “one or two from 12”.

But then those detractors were the same people who claimed the Springboks had no hope in 1995, or Bafana were out of their depth in 1996.

So, what will it take for South Africa to return from London with 12 of the world’s swiftest, highest and strongest?

With few other medal prospects in the first week, the pressure is on the swimmers to get Team South Africa off to a good start.

There are nine potential finalists – four for Chad le Clos; Cameron van der Burgh; Wendy Trott; Graeme Moore; Katheryn Meaklim; and the 4x100m medley relay team. Probably only Van der Burgh can really feel confident he is in with a chance, while Trott, Moore and Le Clos are contenders.

After the swimmers have dried off, the traditional strength has always been track and field.

Among the athletes there are six good medal prospects. Controversial 2009 world champion Caster Semenya in the women’s 800m and Sunette Viljoen, who has the world’s best throw in the women’s javelin this year, should add to the tally, while 400m hurdler LJ van Zyl and the men’s 4x400m relay squad are certainly potential medallists.

South Africa’s sole medallist in Beijing, long jumper Khotso Mokoena must be listed, while Cornel Fredericks just missed out on a medal at the 2011 World Champs.

If the swimmers and track and field athletes can grab nine medals, South Africa could be in with a chance.

That would mean the team would need two more medals from 500m sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley, triathlete Richard Murray and BMX rider Sifiso Nhlapo, and then leave mountain biker Burry Stander, arguably South Africa’s best medal prospect, as the banker for the final day.