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SA hockey boys through to semis

alexa

By Mark Etheridge
in Nanjing

South Africa’s boys’ hockey team have impressed all and sundry by going through to the semi-finals at the Youth Olympic Games on Saturday.

And the SA hero of the five-a-side code was captain Nqobile Ntuli as the Kearsney College lad found the net in each of the three periods of play to deny New Zealand a spot in the semi-finals.

Next up for the boys in green and gold will be a far tougher assignment against Australia in the semis but the mood in the camp will be buoyant.

The girls’ competition came to a halt when they went down to host nation China in their quarter-final, going down 7-1 with skipper Natalie Esteves netting SA’s sole goal.

Meanwhile, the team’s only canoeist was also in action on Saturday. Donna Hutton raced in the K1 sprint events and the African Youth Games medallist was clearly on form, setting personal bests in in both the qualifiying and Last 16 stages.

In the heats she raced a 1min 54.376sec against Hungary (her previous best in Botswana was 1:59) and did almost the same (1:54.976) in the Last 16 against Britain.

That saw her through to the quarters where she clocked a 1:50.473. Unfortunately that wasn’t quick enough as she was knocked out by Kazakhstan’s Yekaterina Kaltenberger (1:46.583) but still ended as sixth best in the world.

‘She’s a bit bleak that she didn’t get through to the semis as that was her objective here,’ said manager/coach Debbie Bird. ‘But she’s really chuffed to improve on her previous best by a full nine seconds and end up being ranked sixth in the world.’

The Grade 10 pupil at Epworth in Pietermaritzburg was no doubt also boosted by messages of support from Olympic and world championships bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley in the days leading up to the event.

‘Next she’s got the slalom on Tuesday and maybe Wednesday, but she’s only been doing this discipline for about a year and is still very inexperienced in this form of the sport,’ said Bird.

It was tough going for Team South Africa’s equestrian representative as the individual competition got underway on the Ian Vallance designed course.

Riding borrowed Mount Dominand, one of 30 horses used for the competition, Alexa Stais ended joint 26th with 16 faults as there were three eliminations (both for two refusals).

The course featured 12 jumps (highest set at 1.30 metres) with a time limit of 168 seconds.

From the get-go, Dominand has struggled to make the grade and it’s been a frustrating competition for young Kyalami, Gauteng rider.

‘Today we warmed up very well and I felt good and positive… it was probably the best he’s gone since we got here. He’s definitely getting better.’

Added coach Lorette Knowles-Taylor: ‘He’s also relaxing much more now and becoming used to us being around, which is very nice.’

Said Stais: ‘From jump two to three I went for a seven-stride as opposed to the eight that I saw most people opting for.

‘He jumped the fourth very well and then as I turned to No7 he wanted to jump towards the crowd but then backed off a bit much and then raced towards the jump.

‘Then he started shying off and I lost count of the faults,’ said the 18-year-old, now sporting a temporary Chinese tattoo reading “Love Nanjing 2014″  on her left forearm after the previous day’s cultural visit to the Nanjing Wall.

Sunday will see the Dominand-Stais combination getting a second crack at the course as the equestrian competition wraps up.

South Africa only had one athlete in track and field action, Leandri Geel in the discus final.

She opened with a 45.38m effort and followed up with throws of 45.07, 45.63 before saving her best for last, a 46.05. That was good for sixth spot in the final but she wasn’t happy with her form. ‘It’s very frustrating,’ said the 17-year-old from Roodepoort on Gauteng’s West Rand. ‘Everything felt right, the discus was coming out very nicely, technically I was fine but it just wouldn’t go as far as it felt! I felt like I was throwing in the range of 49m or so but I just can’t explain it.

‘That’s my competition done for the year but you can be assured that I am going to be doing a lot of training now… I don’t want to be throwing 45′s again!’

In the sailing code, lack of wind once again scuppered Calvin Gibbs and Megan Robertson in the One-Person Dinghy event. Weather (or rather wind) permitting, they will be at it again on Sunday.

Picture 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.


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