Never mind the medal count, just go for it
THE South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee yesterday hosted the celebration of 100 days countdown to the London Olympics.
The theme of the event, held at the Golf Reef City in Johannesburg and broadcast on SABC2's Morning Live, was "Going for Gold".
They say the theme was "aptly" coined.
It could have been apt for yesterday's occasion, but in reality, it seems inappropriate as our athletes do not look likely to conjure up gold medal-winning performances in London. And my argument is based on history.
We took what appeared to be a competitive 136-member team to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and what did they bring home?
Just one silver medal. It's no laughing matter!
I covered the Beijing Olympics and I must admit that I ran out excuses for our cheerless performances. I described our display as a "national scandal" and I got some flak from some officials for my observation of what we went to Beijing for.
Our athletes were more like tourists than competitors.
If they went there to "die" for the country, then how does one explain the single medal they brought home?
And the time has arrived for us to turn the tideas we head to the 2012 London Olympics where we will compete against the world's best.
The question is: will Sascoc take athletes who will be able to shrug off competition from their competitors?
Sascoc bravely thinks so and has already set a target of 12 medals though history points the other way. There were high expectations from 2008's Team SA but it's history that they disappointed the country.
That team included Louis "LJ" van Zyl, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Khotso Mokoena (who won the silver medal), Hendrick Ramaala, Ruben Ramolefi, Alwyn Myburgh, Elizna Naude and Sifiso Nhlapo.
The swimming team, despite bustling with fine and seasoned campaigners, also let the country down in Beijing. We had Ryk Neethling, Lyndon Ferns, Roland Schoeman, Darian Townsend, Riaan Schoeman and Mandy Loots among others.
It is for this reason that I find it outré for Sascoc to set a target for our athletes in London. On paper, this is an attainable goal, but in reality it's a Herculean task to achieve.
Our history of the Olympics suggests the latter.
I'm not suggesting that we don't have talent in this country, I'm just concerned that we always flunk at the Olympics.
I think our athletes will be under tremendous pressure going to London after Sascoc's target.
If Sascoc's president Gideon Sam believes this is a way to encourage athletes going into such a massive tournament, it was not the way to go.
I could not agree more with Oscar Pistorius when he says putting pressure on South Africa's Olympians is unnecessary (read the story elsewhere in the paper).
Pistorius, who is on the verge of becoming the first amputee athlete to take part in the Olympics, said: "Athletes could do without the extra pressure. Athletes do not need that (pressure).
"They are already under pressure from themselves and their own expectations. Athletes will do their best and know what is expected of them."
The Blade Runner is two-thirds of the way to the Olympics after having run the qualifying time twice in the 400m and needing one more qualifying time to meet Sascoc standards.
How I pray that he succeeds because the country can bank on him for medal.
I'm also excited that swimming sensation Chad le Clos will be among the country's representatives in London. Though Le Clos is being touted as a strong medal hopeful at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 20-year-old has pulled off performances both at home and abroad that strongly suggest he can secure a podium finish in London.
Cameron van der Burgh, is another medal hopeful who has also booked himself a passage to the Games.
He cracked the world's third-fastest time of the year as he won the 100m breaststroke at the national championship in Durban on Tuesday night.
Our swimmers are currently fighting out in the water in Durban and I wish those who will secure qualifying times will make us proud at the Olympics.
Though we will miss the experience of Ramaala in London, let's hope that Stephen Mokoka, Lusapho April and Coolboy Ngamole will shine in the marathon.
Van Zyl (hurdles), Cornel Fredericks (400m hurdles), Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and Willem Coertzen (decathlon) have also made it to London and we hope they are not going there to add to the numbers.
We still have the likes of former world champions Caster Semenya and Mulaudzi, who are still to qualify, but I think they will make it in their last-gasp attempts.
I say to those who will qualify for the London Olympics to go out there and die for the country.
Forget about the 12 medal target because this could distract your attention.