For South Africa, 2019 could have been one of the country’s most memorable sporting years ever.
Instead, within two months, any hopes of bringing major silverware back home have been dashed.
The Proteas, chasing their first-ever World Cup trophy win, produced one of the team’s worst performances on the international stage and were knocked out in the early stages of the tournament in England.
Banyana Banyana, despite a heroic display in France at their first Fifa Women’s World Cup, were eliminated from football’s prized event after failing to make it out of the group stages.
This week, Bafana Bafana were the latest team to deliver a blow to South African fans as Stuart Baxter’s side were sent packing by Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations.
But while Bafana, Banyana and the Proteas have all failed in their mission to bring home any silverware, there have been plenty of other reasons for supporters to celebrate.
Over the last few months, several South African sports men and women have kept the flag flying high. We take a look at some of those sporting heroes who have excelled in their respective sporting codes:
Amy-Claire King - Eightball pool player
Two weeks ago, Joburg-born pool player King was crowned the World Masters Singles champion at the World Eightball Pool Championships in Blackpool.
The title means that she is now the best women’s eightball player in the world.
Not only did King win the singles trophy, but she was also named the player of the tournament and was part of the Proteas women’s team which was crowned world champions.
The team, managed by Anya Roux, included King, Joy Willenberg, Michelle Rabe, Debbie Europa, and Madeleine Olivier.
She secured joint first in the World Eightball Pool team of the year.
King also managed to win the South African Eightball Pool Championships earlier this year.
Simthandile ‘SimTiger’ Tshabalala - Golf player
Simthandile added yet another achievement to his growing collection after he scooped the US Kids Golf Champion last month.
The gold medal that he earned at the US Open adds to his collection of more than 20 accolades.
The seven-year-old shot to fame in the last six months and has continued to rise on the local and international stages and has no shortage of fans.
He was also recently named among the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans.
In April, the youngster ended the 2019 Australian Open at the Riverside Oaks Golf Resort with a top-5 finish.
Caster Semenya - Runner
SA’s golden girl won the 800m event at the Doha Diamond League meeting in May in her first race since losing her appeal over a controversial gender ruling.
The two-time Olympic champion, timed 1 minute 54.98 seconds, defeated Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who clocked 1 minute 57.75 seconds, as well as Ajee Wilson of the United States’ 1 min 58.83 seconds.
Semenya was only added to the 800m start list in Doha after her appeal against a new rule regulating testosterone levels for women athletes was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
South African swimming team
The team successfully concluded the 30th Summer Universiade in Napoli this week with a total of five gold and one silver medal, as well as two new championship records.
They will now be heading to Gwangju, South Korea, for the 18th Fina World Championships from July 12-28.
Tatjana Schoenmaker -Swimmer
Local swimming star Schoenmaker scooped two gold medals at the World Student Games in Napol.
The Tuks swimming sensation secured gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the international gala.
Schoenmaker won the 200m breaststroke in a time of 2:22.92 which is only 0.89 seconds slower than the personal best she set during last year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games when she won in a time of 2:22.02.
She set a new African and South African record on her way to victory in the 100m women’s breaststroke, and surged to victory in the semifinals in 1 minute 6.32 seconds, bettering her previous personal best by 0.09 seconds.
Rogail Joseph - Hurdler
In April, Joseph lit up the skies of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, by running away with the Under-20 women’s 100m and 400m hurdles titles at the Junior African Championships.
Three weeks before that, she won the Under-20 400m hurdles title at the South African Championships in Stellenbosch.
Brad Binder - Motorcyclist
Binder will make his MotoGP debut in 2020, joining former team-mate Miguel Oliveira at Red Bull KTM Tech3.
The 2016 Moto3 world champion currently competes for the factory KTM Moto2 squad and will graduate to the premier class from next season.
Binder, who is currently eighth in the Moto2 world championship, is the only KTM rider in the top 15 of the riders’ standings following the Austrian brand’s tough start to 2019.
Kevin Lerena - Boxer
The country’s top cruiserweight boxer, Lerena successfully defended his International Boxing Organisation (IBO) world title for a fourth time with a unanimous points victory over Czech challenger Vasil Ducar.
The fight was the headline bout of the Golden Gloves’ KO Kings tournament at Emperors Palace last month.
Boitumelo Special School football team
The Boitumelo Special School Soccer Team were crowned world champions after beating Spain in the finals at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi in March.
The local team participated in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, billed as the largest sports and humanitarian event of the year, which was attended by more than 7 500 athletes from over 190 nations, participating in 24 codes/events.
SA Sevens team
In March, defending World Series champions South Africa, or fondly known as the Blitzbokke, bagged the Canada Sevens title in Vancouver, beating France 21-12 to take top honours.
Impi Visser, Selvyn Davids and Werner Kok each scored tries for South Africa, who climbed to fourth overall in the men’s World Rugby Sevens Series standings.
Orlando Pirates Under-17 football team
Orlando Pirates FC became the first-ever South African winners of the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament when they edged Russian visitors FC Spartak 8-7 on penalties in March.
The tournament, which comprised of eight teams, included the likes of defending champions Club Brugge (Belgium), RCD Espanyol de Barcelona (Spain), Reggio Audace (Italy), Spartak FC (Russia), Club Tijuana (Mexico) and a side from the All India Football Federation.