silver bullet ready to fire

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

BEIJING - Olympic medal hopeful Mbualeni Mulaudzi is motivated by many factors to add another medal to Team South Africa's cabinet when he takes part in the 800m event at the National Stadium today.

He is in high spirits after his friend and roommate Khotso Mokoena won the country's first medal in the long jump on Monday.

Another motivational factor for the 27-year-old is his medal triumph at the 2004 Athens Olympics where he won silver. He will surely want to go the extra mile for gold this time round.

Mulaudzi could not be interviewed yesterday as he was hard at training preparing for the race, which is crucial for him and the country.

But he assured Sowetan when the athletics team arrived in Beijing last week that he was ready for the Olympics.

His readiness will be tested by the likes of Briton Michael Rimmer, Li Xiangyu of China and Pawel Czapiewski of Poland.

But on his day, Mulaudzi can leave his competitors chasing shadows.

Also in action in the same event today for Team South Africa is newcomer Samson Ngoepe.

Ngoepe, who finished seventh at the African Championships in Ethiopia this year to book a ticket to Beijing, is young but has a big heart. He will want to prove to the world that he did not qualify for the biggest stage by fluke. But inexperience could count against him.

The semifinals of the 800 will take place tomorrow with the final on Saturday.

The spotlight will also fall on amputee Natalie du Toit when she competes against able-bodied athletes in the new women's 10km open water marathon swim at Sy Rowing-Canoeing Park at 9am (3am South African time).

Du Toit, who will also represent South Africa at the Paralympics next month, is capable of claiming a medal in the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Sunette Viljoen and Justine Robbeson lost in the quarterfinals of the women's javelin yesterday.

Team SA Events: Natalie du Toit - women's 10km open marathon swim (10am South African time); Sifiso Nhlapo - cycling BMX phase run 1 (3am); Heinrich Barnes - men's freestyle wrestling 66kg qualification (3.30am); Nhlapho speeding phase run 2 - (4.15am); Shaun Rubenstein - kayak single 1000m men's semifinals (9.30am); Calvin Mokoto - canoe single 1 000m men's semifinals 2 (10am); Mbualeni Mulaudzi - 800m heat (1.16pm); Samson Ngoepe - 800m heat (1.32pm).