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Sanani on the Games

The Olympic Games in London get ever closer and one person who knows this better than most is Sanani Mangisa, writes Kate Nokwe.

She’s goalkeeper to the recently qualified South African women’s hockey team, or if you’ve been hanging out with the Minister of Sports and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mbalula lately, then it’s ‘The Smoothies’.

Back in February, I attended the South African Hockey Association team announcement press conference and a confident Mangisa was in attendance.

This is why I couldn’t wait to chat to her on their return from India after the Olympic qualifying competition, gold medal and all. So what exactly were you banking on?, I asked.

ÔÇ£The build-up to the tournament was a confidence booster. We played the likes of Spain and Belgium successfully. We were
prepared. Our coaches, video guys were working around the clock to ensure we were ready.ÔÇØ

Yeah, but that’s not a guarantee, I ventured.

ÔÇ£We were ready. We had experience; going to India we had over 2000 caps to our names. We were focused and we knew what this meant: London or nothing. We wanted the London aspect.ÔÇØ

Though still on cloud-nine, the short-stopper admits accepting the qualifying standards from South African sport’s governing body SASCOC was a challenge, but once they accepted it there was no going back, just a mind-set of growth that carried them to the coveted podium in India.

ÔÇ£Going to London we knew what we needed to do. We had to accept the criteria, see it as just that ÔÇô a criteria we can live up to, and once we did (accept) that, there was no stopping us, and no one stopped usÔÇØ.

I bring up the painful memory of Beijing, as a much younger Mangisa proudly donned the green and gold colours. Fast forward four year later and this mature “Smoothie” is slightly pleased with SASCOC’s qualifying demands as they attest to the growth of the team and ÔÇ£have prepared us for the tough competition awaiting us in LondonÔÇØ, she tells me.

ÔÇ£We are stronger. We used to play just a few tests in months, now we play something close to 30 in the same space of time, which has been the vital key to our preparations. We have more experience and some of our key players’ play for top clubs in EuropeÔÇØ

While Holland, China and Argentina walked away with the biggest accolades from 2008, four years later the Eastern Cape born player reckons there are other teams to watch out for, like Great Britain, who have a home advantage. She’s quick to point out, that ranking don’t matter that much at games such as these, but does determine pools.

And although the Smoothies will do ‘better’ than 2008, Mangisa estimates a top six finish will be “realistic”, considering where “we come from”.

Let’s face it ÔÇô┬áunless you’re playing rugby, cricket or soccer the support system from the South African family is not that great. But the 24-year-old tells me the media coverage has stepped up and the use of social media has increased their support base. And with a new Team South Africa mascot in the mix and announced this week, things can only get better.

Follow Sananai’s Road to London on Twitter @ladysans


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