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Magerman’s magical moment for Team SA
- Updated: August 25, 2014
By Mark Etheridge
in Nanjing, China
The sun shone down brighter on Monday than it has since Team South Africa arrived here for the Youth Olympic Games 12 days ago … and there was a glorious golden glow about the team.
The reason being that Gezelle Magerman had just run her way into the record books and won South Africa’s first medal of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
The Paarl athlete ran what was ultimately an extremely clever race to win the girl’s 400m hurdles final in fine style. Her time of 57.91 seconds was yet another personal best – PB’s seem to rain down on this youngster much like the rain that soaked the Olympic Stadium during the evening finals. Her new PB is also a SA Youth record.
When she was crowned African Youth Games champion in Gaborone, Botswana three months ago the gazelle-like athlete won in a PB time. In the heats here, there was another PB time and she bettered that again in the final.
‘The best moment of my life,’ she beamed afterwards, the national flag proudly draped over her shoulders. ‘This medal is so precious, no-one’s going to touch it right now, I’ll be sleeping all night with it,’ she grinned.
There was definitely some anxiety as the Games went into the ninth day of competition with no medal for the team, and Magerman said she had felt it in her build-up.
‘This was definitely one for the team,’ she said. ‘Coach Chris [White] just told me to go out and have fun but I was very aware of the fact that this would be our first medal, which makes it even more special.’
As for the race itself, she gave everyone more than a little bit of stress as she bounced up out of her blocks and virtually crawled around the opening 100m. Going through the last bend and into the home straight she was lying seventh and then fifth.
But then the afterburners kicked in and it looked like the field were frozen still in the glow of the Olympic flame as she blasted past her rivals for what was eventually a pretty easy win. Runner-up Michaela Perskova of Slovakia was clocked at 58.26, meaning that the pearl from Paarl was 0.35sec clear at the line.
And while the second fastest qualifier, Ellen Demes of Germany walked crying down the tunnel after a fall going into the home straight, Magerman’s smile reached all the way to the southern tip of the African continent.
‘I did have a slow start but I don’t really know why,’ she said. ‘I lengthened my strides from about 300m, probably because I didn’t want to fall over a hurdle, and then going around the final bend I kept on remembering how many times I’d practised that final bend with Chris and then I just pushed hard for the line.
‘To be honest, although I knew I was quite far back in terms of position I never thought I wouldn’t catch them.’
The Grade 11 La Rochelle pupil also gave credit to her coaches, Marna van der Burgh and Ronya Bosch, back home. She will soon have to turn her thoughts back from track to classroom as she starts writing exams in two weeks time.
But for now she’s the toast of Nanjing, South Africa and best of all … the world.
Fighting back the tears, American-born coach White said: ‘This is just the best feeling ever and making it that much more satisfactory is that we were the first code to win a medal for South Africa.
‘I’ve worked with Gezelle since May at the African Youth Games, but my job here was mainly to oversee her programme, fine-tune here and there and mostly to just manage things smoothly.’
The team’s only other athlete in action was Jo-Ané van Dyk in the girl’s javelin A final on the last night of track and field action, but she was unable to add SA’s second medal of the night.
She opened with a 43.50m effort and later improved that to a 48.93 which was good for seventh place, as Bellarussian Hanna Tarasiuk’s 59.23 was six metres ahead of the field and a personal best to boot.
Also in medal contention were the boys’ hockey side who have punched above their weight to reach the semi-final in the five-a-side version of the game.
They missed out on a place in the final but it was oh so close as Australia went through 4-3.
The two sides also matched each other every step of the way in the pool game as South Africa won 6-5. On Monday night Ryan Crowe put SA up 1-0 before Australia equalised and then took the lead. Once again South Africa equalised through Garth Turner but fell 2-4 behind and even though Luke Schooling pulled one back in the last minute it was too little too late.
And it didn’t help matters that the boys in green and gold had to make do without their talismanic skipper, Nqobile Ntuli who was yellow-carded with three minutes to go.
South Africa will now play Spain in the play-off for the bronze medal after the European side had gone down to Canada.
Said coach Neville Rothman: ‘When Australia went 3-2 up it was a vital goal because it was deflected off our stick. It’s a hard defeat to swallow because we were really playing well.
‘Now we must focus on our bronze medal match on Wednesday. It’s a medal-winning game and we must use that fact to lift us up for the Spanish clash.’
Consolation for the SA side may come in the fact that Spain had been made tournament favourites by all and sundry and the defeat to Canada may leave them with an emotional mountain to climb.
Picture of Gezelle Magerman 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.