President’s Voice – Gideon Sam

May 4th, 2012  |  Published in President's Voice

The recent holidays may have made it seem somewhat quiet this last week or so but as they often say: “Quiet on the surface but paddling like crazy underneath!”

A few of the highlights have been the way our men’s hockey team started their quest in Japan to get that final slot for the Olympics. We have every faith that they have what it takes to win their final and join Team South Africa in London later this year. They certainly played like men possessed and that is a great sign of a team that wants to achieve.

We look forward to welcoming them home from this mission.

There have also been a good few sporting meetings around the country and continent of late which is great because it gives our athletes enough time to sharpen themselves and do whatever is necessary to convince the selectors to select them for London. The criteria remain intact and all the athletes who have qualified and those who are still qualifying must remember that achieving qualification does not mean simply resting on one’s laurels and saying that it’s mission accomplished.

There lies more hard work ahead and this will only stop when the Games are over.

The recent national swimming championships in Durban once again showed that our athletes for the Paralympics Games mean business. There were some great performances – Kevin Paul set a world record and Charl Bouwer and Natalie du Toit both swam qualifying times in no less than six events! – this a clear indication that our athletes for the Games are in great shape and we can expect good performances from them. In the able-bodied champs, 12 of our swimmers achieved A Standard times which is also hugely encouraging and I continue to marvel at Chad le Clos. To swim A qualifying times in four events is just something else.

Then it was great to see our BMX ace Sifiso Nhlapo back in the country and winning the national BMX championships in Pietermaritzburg. With all the injuries he has had over the last few years it’s still a big struggle for him to qualify but I’m happy to see that he is giving himself every chance at qualifying for the Games.

And I have to say that I am hugely excited that two of our top amateur boxers, Ayabonga Sonjica and Siphiwe Lusizi have provisionally qualified for the Games. They’re fighting up in Casablanca at the continental qualifying event. By now I’m sure you all know that boxing is a sport very close to my heart and I’m happy that after all the attention we’ve given to our boxers in the last few years we’re starting to see dividends now. These two guys got to the semi-finals and hopefully can go all the way at this tournament.

Then away from the fray, we continue to engage SRSA on issues that we need to finalise.

Just some of these are: Service Level Agreements (SLA) as a direct outflow of last year’s Sport Indaba held in Midrand. Our Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, will in his budget vote speech, give indications of where this process is and what the country should expect.

There is also the longstanding cricketing matter that will hopefully draw to some conclusion very soon. Meetings are currently being held between the Minister and Cricket South Africa to wrap up this issue.

The critical matter of transformation in our sport is also being addressed and an Eminent Persons Group will be announced by the Minister to oversee transformation in sport.

So as you can see, we’re going through some very exciting times in our wide world of sport and the public will soon see the fruits of all this behind-the-scenes work.

Unfortunately it’s not all good news though and I continue to shake my head as it seems that week after week we are mourning the loss of yet another of our sporting family.

Early this week I heard about the tragic death of Norwegian swimmer Dale Oen, who would have been our own Cameron van der Burgh’s biggest rival in the breaststroke events in London later this year.

Then I heard about our own three stars, Zolani Ntongana (road running), Ruan van Heerden (cycling) and Sibusiso Duma (polo) having passed on. Any death is a tragedy but when one hears of such talent being lost, and at such an early age (Zolani was the oldest at 31), it is particularly heartsore.

I cannot remember a year where we have to mourn for so many of our sports fraternity and can only hope that it gets better as the year goes on.


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