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Swimming ends as Gezelle’s great run gives Team SA hope
- Updated: August 22, 2014
By Mark Etheridge
in Nanjing, China
As Team SA concluded their six-days of swimming without a medal at the Youth Olympic Games, track and field have put their hand up in the search for silverware.
Team South Africa had finalists in four events at the Natatorium venue and while they went desperately close in two of those events, it was not to be.
Enter Gezelle Magerman over at the impressive adjacent Olympic Stadium track and field venue. Competing in the second day of track and field action, the bubbly Paarl athlete blitzed through the 400m hurdles qualifying heats and will line up for Monday’s final as the fastest qualifier.
What a breath of fresh air that has blown in to the Team SA challenge!
Lining up in the second and final heat, Magerman flew to a personal best of 58.57 to head the qualifying list, ahead of Germany’s Eileen Demes, who also ran a personal best (58.68), the next best qualifying time was a 59.44 … could this be the medal the team are waiting for?
Magerman said afterwards: ‘I was a bit stressed out before the race, maybe because we hadn’t got any medals yet but I just looked long and hard at our country’s flag for inspiration!
‘As we started I just remembered to lock my wrists correctly and got to the first hurdle in first place. I then just kept my stride normal. But when I reached the 200m mark, I was third.’
Then the fighting spirit that South Africans are traditionally renowned for, kicked in. ‘I glanced to my left and saw the German girl [Deme] and I said “no ways is this going to happen”. I shortened my stride and with 5m to the line I just popped and the next thing I had won.’
Her personal best before Friday’s fireworks was the 60.19sec she ran in getting gold in the 2nd African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana in May. On this form there is a definite medal beckoning.
The other SA athlete in action was field athlete Jo-Ané Van Dyk, like Magerman also a gold medallist in Botswana – in her case the javelin event. She too came up with a personal best of the night. Her opening throw pegged at 52.60m and although she was unable to improve on that with her next two throws (51.73 and 50.45), she still goes into the final as third best qualifier.
There was also good news on the cycling front out at Laoshan Road which hosted the women’s and men’s road races over an undulating course.
Enter Ivan Venter who raced to victory over the three laps of 23 kilometres (69km in total). He clocked a time of 1hr 37min 18sec for a five-second victory margin over Portugal’s Antonio Tunes.
Says cycling manager Margot Gerber: ‘It was just fantastic to be out there and see it. He was always in the second bunch but then over the last three kilometres he started catching up and finally took the lead in the last 2-3 kilometres.
‘We were expecting something like this, something good. His result meant that SA finish sixth in the team competition.’
Venter, coached by Barry Austin, hails from Somerset West in the Cape but is based at the UCI Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland. Alex Limberg, the other SA rider in the road race, failed to finish.
In the women’s road race, Maia Rawlins ended 54th with a time of 1hr 28min 19sec while fellow South African Lebo Pebane recorded a Did Not Finish.
Back to the pool and, as mentioned earlier it was desperately close as Jarred Crous, probably the SA team’s swimmer of the championships, fell agonisingly short of a medal in the boy’s 50m breaststroke.
He ended with a 28.46sec fourth-placed finish. The blond kid from Kearsney College was a nail-biting 0.03sec behind bronze medallist Anton Chupkov of Russia.
Less than 10 minutes later he was at it again as part of Team South Africa’s Mixed 4x100m medley relay final.
Going off first was Nathania van Niekerk in the backstroke, followed by breaststroker Crous, Josh Steyn in the butterfly and then Marlies Ross rounded off in the freestyle anchor leg.
After the first leg Van Niekerk touched in seventh spot but Crous showed no sign of any exhaustion after his recent final and hauled the team back to third spot. Steyn maintained that spot before Ross lost two spots for the team to finally finish fifth in 3:54.86. Host nation China won in 3:49.33 from Russia, Australia and Brazil.
Sailing saw the entire fleet, including SA’s one-person dinghy crews Calvin Gibbs and Megan Robertson, landbound on the penultimate day. Said manager/coach Rob Holden: ‘There was just no wind out there today so we’ll just go straight into the last-day finals on Saturday.
‘The wind has been very, very light the whole week, very unlike what we are used to.’
‘Calvin’s lying about 25th in the men’s event and Megan is bringing up the back in the women. It’s no excuse but our guys are not used to sailing these boats at all, it’s not an Olympic class event and they only sailed those boats in European qualifying events.
‘The experience here is invaluable going forward because they are also not used to sailing in such big fleets back home. Calvin is doing everything exactly right, there are just sections of the course where he is battling a bit, rounding buoys in amongst lots of boats.
‘Megan is learning the hard way and she realises that she is going to have to work harder at this level.’
In shooting’s final day of action at the Fangshan Shooting Hall, South Africa’s Sybrand Laurens and Croatian team-mate Ivana Babic lost in the quarter-finals of the 10m air rifle, Mixed International Teams quarter-final.
They went down 10-6 to San Marino’s Agata Alina Riccardi and Andrija Milovanovic of Serbia.
Picture of Jarred Crous by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA. Pictures of Team South Africa’s campaign at the 2014 Youth Olympics are free for downloading on www.sascocimages.co.za.