There wasn’t much to say in terms of depth, but South Africa’s elite women did enough to save the country’s 2021 Olympic campaign by winning a few medals at the Tokyo Olympics.
The SA team received several hits before the centerpiece even began in July, with the Blitzboks being forced into an extended quarantine due to positive Covid tests in the team, while a few athletes were sidelined by injuries in various codes.
Additionally, some of the country’s medal contenders fell just short of the podiums, including track star Akani Simbine, who finished fourth in the 100m final, four-time Olympic medalist Chad le Clos, who finished fifth. in the 200m butterfly, and the Blitzboks, who settled for fifth place in the rugby sevens competition.
Despite all the disappointments, swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker and surfer Bianca Buitendag made sure the SA team did not come home empty-handed.
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Schoenmaker fulfilled the immense expectation placed in her, breaking the world record (2: 18.95) to win gold in the 200m breaststroke final and winning silver in the 100m breaststroke.
Buitendag, meanwhile, produced the performance of her life, defeating seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia on her way to a memorable silver medal in the women’s surf competition.
The three-medal harvest was the country’s worst since the 2008 Games in Beijing, but aside from the results of Schoenmaker and Buitendag, some of the country’s talented young prospects have given reason to smile by showing their potential ahead of the 2024 Games. in Paris.
Breaststroke swimmer Kaylene Corbett, shot put giant Kyle Blignaut and marathon swimmer Michael McGlynn, all under 23, finished in the top eight in their specialty disciplines in Tokyo.
Buitendag has now retired, but Schoenmaker is expected to shine again at the Paris centerpiece in 2023.
And with a few seasoned stars aiming to make amends and a few talented young athletes keen to fulfill their potential, she should have more support.