Olympic moment of truth finally arrives for SA athletes

Mashele, Phora to live their dreams in Tokyo

Thapelo Phora of South Africa.
Thapelo Phora of South Africa.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

The moment first-time Olympians Thapelo Phora and Precious Mashele had been waiting for has finally arrived.

There was an air of optimism as Athletics SA (ASA) president James Moloi and his board saw off the track and field athletes and marathoners to Tokyo, Japan, at the OR Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park on Tuesday.

Mashele will run the 5000m, while Phora qualified for the 400m.

“The moment that I have been waiting for all my life has finally come. I have been working towards this dream all my life. It is time to live my dream and enjoy it. I want to make the finals in my event and use this opportunity to learn as much as I can,” 29-year-old Phora said.

Mashele said the feeling of going to Tokyo still felt like a dream to him.

“It is a dream come true to go to Tokyo for me. The feeling has not yet sunk in,” he said.  

Moloi said: “We did everything to assist our athletes, and we pushed Mashele until he made it on the final day. We are sending a great team. If we make the top four, we will be happy. We hope they would gain valuable experience for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games in the US and England next year. We want them to have fun and do their best at the Games.” 

US-based sprinter Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi, who prepared for the Olympics at the University of Pretoria, will team up with his American coach, the Olympic sprint great Carl Lewis, in Tokyo. 

“It is nine days to go before my event. I cannot believe it. I want to make the 100m and 200m finals,” Maswanganyi said.

The new ASA administration is confident that the team would deliver medals at the Games.

The athletics competition starts on July 30 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium and the later date gives the athletes enough time to settle and prepare for the their events.

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