The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed by 12 months to 2021. That’s a bummer for all sports fans.
So too will be the worrying news that next year’s Games are not a sure thing with reports Japan’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse.
Missing out on an Olympic Games is exactly what South Africa had to endure for 32 years (seven Olympics in total) between 1960 and 1992.
When South Africa was finally readmitted to the international sporting fold, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona provided for a welcome platform for athletes from the country to showcase their talents and skills on the highest stage.
There have been seven Olympics since 1992.
South Africa’s men and women have bagged 10 golds – resulting in a double handful of unforgettable sporting moments for the country.
And let’s not forget the 16 silvers and nine bronze medals also won, giving a total of 35 podium finishers since readmission.
But let’s focus on those 10 golden moments, why don’t we. Willing to bet you recall each and every one!
Which was your most memorable? Why not drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
1992 – BARCELONA
South Africa was permitted to re-join the Olympic movement after its citizens voted to abolish apartheid. Marathoner Jan Tau carried the SA flag at the opening ceremony (good quiz question).
South Africa failed to win a gold or bronze medal, but did pick up two silvers, thanks to Elana Meyer in the women’s 10 000m and the tennis doubles pairing of Wayne Ferreira and Piet Norval.
1996 – ATLANTA
It had been 44 years since South Africa had won an Olympic gold medal (1952 in Helsinki), but Penny Heyns ensured the wait would end with victory in the women’s 100m breaststroke having set a new world record in the heats. Not content with just one gold, Heyns scooped a second in the women’s 200m breaststroke in a new Olympic record.
Josia Thugwane then took centre stage in the men’s marathon, rounding off a memorable Olympics for South Africa when he emerged victorious in a 124-man field from 79 countries to claim gold by just three seconds.
For the record, SA also won a silver medal in the men’s 800m (Hezekiel Sepeng) and a bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke (Marianne Kriel).
2000 – SYDNEY
South Africa sadly went home without a gold medal from the Sydney Millennium Olympics, but did win two silvers (Hestrie Cloete – women’s high jump and Terence Parkin – men’s 200m breaststroke) as well as three bronze medals (Llewellyn Herbert – men’s 400m hurdles, Frantz Kruger – men’s discus and Penny Heyns – women’s 100m breaststroke).
2004 – ATHENS
Cape Town had unsuccessfully bid for the 2004 Games. Perhaps some other time…
Keeping up the trend of success in the pool, the South African quartet of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling scorched to victory in a new world record in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, beating USA swimming superstar Michael Phelps’ line-up in the process. It certainly was a chest-thumping moment if ever there was one!
Clearly in fine form, Schoeman would also win silver in the 100m freestyle and bronze in the 50m freestyle, tying him at that stage as the most decorated South African Olympian with Penny Heyns.
Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Hestrie Cloete (again) picked up silver medals in the men’s 800m and women’s high jump, respectively.
The duo of Donovan Cech and Ramon di Clemente rowed their way to bronze in the men’s pairs to complete a six-medal haul for South Africa, their most since 1952.
2008 – BEIJING
Sadly South Africa had its worst medal performance in China in 72 years (since 1936 in Berlin) when they managed a solitary silver thanks to Khotso Mokoena in the men’s long jump.
2012 – LONDON
By contrast, South Africa tied its best ever gold medal performance in 100 years (since 1912 in Stockholm) with no fewer than four top-step finishes in London.
Once again it was in the pool that Team SA did most of their triumphing, with Cameron van der Burgh setting a world record in winning the men’s 100m breaststroke, and who will ever forget Chad le Clos toppling Michael Phelps in the men’s 200m butterfly?
Le Clos would go on to claim the silver in the 100m butterfly as well.
The men’s lightweight coxless fours of James Thompson, Matthew Britain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu were not to be denied in cruising to the gold medal, neither was Caster Semenya in the women’s 800m.
Bridgette Hartley completed the medal haul with a bronze in the women’s K-1 500m.
2016 – RIO DE JANIERO
Rio marked South Africa’s most successful Olympics since readmission with 10 medals, tying the all-time record from 1920 in Antwerp and 1952 in Helsinki.
Although only two gold medals were won, they certainly were memorable.
Who will ever forget Wayde van Niekerk storming to victory – from Lane 8 – in a new world record time (43.03) in the men’s 400m?
And not to be outdone, Caster Semenya defended her title in the women’s 800m.
Although he wasn’t ‘golden’ in Rio, Chad le Clos picked up two further silver medals (100m butterfly and 200m freestyle), moving him past Penny Heyns and Roland Schoeman and into top spot as South Africa’s most decorated Olympian of all time.
Cameron van der Burgh had to settle for silver in the 100m breaststroke, as did Luvo Manyonga in the men’s long jump and Sunette Viljoen in the women’s javelin.
The rowing pairing of Lawrence Brittain (younger brother of 2012 gold medallist Matthew) and Shaun Keeling also picked up a silver medal in the men’s coxless pairs.
The South African Sevens Blitzboks team would’ve been hoping for higher honours than their bronze on the rugby field, while Henri Schoeman edged compatriot Richard Murray to third place in the men’s triathlon.
So there you have it.
Ten gold medals for South Africa since readmission to the Olympic fold thanks to the combined efforts of:
Cameron van der Burgh
Chad le Clos
Wayde van Niekerk
Penny Heyns (x2)
Caster Semenya (x2)
Bring on Tokyo 2021. We can’t wait!