Chad le Clos will spearhead SA’s Commonwealth Games medal charge. Photo: EPA
The usual suspects are set to dominate South Africa’s medal charge at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia which kick off on Wednesday.

The South African contingent will be looking to return to the top-five on the medals table after they had slipped to seventh place with a total count of 40 (13 gold, 10 silver and 17 bronze) at the 2014 Glasgow Games.

The country has been to six Commonwealth Games since 1994 and have finished fifth in the medals count on three occasions (Kuala Lumpur 1998; Melbourne 2006 and New Delhi 2010).

Chad le Clos will be swimming four individual events and targeting a butterfly clean sweep while he will also be aiming at a 200m freestyle gold medal

Although the South African swimming sensation has entered the 100m freestyle he may scratch from the event as the heats are on the same day as the 200m butterfly final.

Le Clos is aiming to become the most decorated swimmer at the Commonwealth Games and has set his sights on four individual medals this time.

He has won a total of 12 medals over two Commonwealth Games and if everything goes well he could reach the 18-medal mark in only his third appearance at the multi-sport event.

Shooters, Briton Mich Gault and Aussie Phillip Adams are the joint most decorated participants at the Games with the 18 medals they have each won over six editions.

Le Clos is also entered in the 4x100m, 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays which could see him reach the record milestone.

Looking to win his third consecutive 50m breaststroke gold medal, 2012 Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh will also get into the pool in the 100m breaststroke.

Breaststroker Tatjana Schoenmaker and freestyle swimmer Erin Gallagher will be the country’s top female hopefuls in the swimming pool.

South Africa are sending a small, albeit strong track and field team to the Games, spearheaded by Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga.

Semenya has her sights on a rare 800-1500m golden double which could make her only the third woman in Commonwealth Games history to achieve this feat.

Olympic women’s javelin throw silver medallist Sunette Viljoen and former world 400m hurdles bronze medallist LJ van Zyl are among the senior members of the squad going to their fourth Commonwealth Games.

Viljoen, who was cleared to participate after she proved her fitness at the Sasol NWU-Pukke International meeting in Sasolburg last week with a heave of 62.46m, is chasing her fourth medal - gold in Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010 and silver in Glasgow 2014  in as many Games.

One-lap hurdler Van Zyl has the 2006 gold medal to his name and the 2010 Delhi silver medal.

South Africa’s two top male long jumpers, reigning world champion Manyonga and Commonwealth bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai, will fancy their chances of a 1-2 sweep on the podium.

The country has been making serious waves in the sprinting department and these Games will be a good gauge as to whether we are indeed the force we are believed to be.

South Africa’ chances of dominating the men’s sprints look good even without injured world 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk.

National 100m record-holder Akani Simbine is currently ranked third in the Commonwealth Games behind Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake.

Simbine boasts a season’s best of 10.05 seconds but has taken a more prudent approach to the year and is yet to start dropping the fast times.

It would not be far fetched to imagine South Africa claiming a gold-silver sweep in the men’s half-lap sprint event.

Standing atop of the 2018 world rankings over 200m is Clarence Munyai with his South African record of 19.69.

World 2015 bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana will be ranked the second fastest man at the Games with his season’s best of 20.07.

In the triathlon Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman and Richard Murray, who finished third in Glasgow 2014, will also be targeting South African domination.

Schoeman won the World Series Rankings (WTS) in Abu Dhabi while Murray has won two ITU World Cup titles.

Four years ago South Africa won silver in the mixed relay and with a team spearheaded by Murray and Schoeman, they may well earn another podium spot.

The Blitzboks look primed to successfully defend their title considering their top-class performances in the World Seven Series where they top the rankings.

The Proteas’ women’s hockey team may be short on international competition ahead of the Games but they will take confidence from their last two major tournaments.

They finished fourth at the previous edition where they featured in the bronze medal match and will be looking to finally earn a podium place.

The South African netball team have been gaining ground on the top three sides in the world given their victory over England in 2017 while they also got close to beating both Australia and New Zealand in the Quad Series.

Sunday Independent

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