Paris 2024

SA's Games medallists rewarded as Sascoc vows to relaunch OpEx

Budget to fund athlete preparation dried up in 2020

David Isaacson Sports reporter
Lara van Niekerk shows off her 50m breaststroke gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Lara van Niekerk shows off her 50m breaststroke gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Image: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

SA’s Commonwealth Games gold medallists from Birmingham 2022 have received R100,000 each, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) said on Saturday. 

But even more critical was the announcement by Sascoc CEO Nozipho Jafta that the umbrella body's Operation Excellence (OpEx) programme, aimed at preparing athletes for events like the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, is on the verge of being relaunched after drying up in 2020. 

Preparing athletes and rewarding them for performances are two different elements.

For the first time in SA history incentives were paid to Commonwealth Games, with a total of R3.1m going to medallists and coaches. 

Lara van Niekerk, who won the 50m and 100m breaststroke races, took home R200,000, while each member of the victorious Blitzbok team pocketed R100,000, Sascoc said in a statement. 

Silver medallists got R50,000 and bronze R25,000. Coaches got R15,000 for gold, R10,000 for silver and R5,000 for bronze. 

SA won seven golds, nine silvers and 11 bronze medals across nine sporting codes to finish ninth on the medals table, their lowest standing since 1994. 

The incentives were first announced by deputy sport minister Nocawe Mafu in June, though she didn’t specify the amounts at the time. The prize money was funded by the National Lotteries Commission and the government, Sascoc said.  

“We are aware that payment of the incentives to our athletes has taken a bit longer than expected, but all the same we are pleased to reward our athletes and their coaches for their hard work and excellence at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games,” Sascoc president Barry Hendricks was quoted as saying in the statement. 

“Our focus is now on Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and based on the performances we witnessed in Birmingham, we believe that we are moving towards the right direction as we journey to Paris.”

Incentives have been become a regular feature for Olympic and Paralympic medals in the past decade. 

But what has been missing from SA sport is an active funding programme to prepare athletes for future competitions. 

That is about to change.

Jafta told athletes at a Sascoc indaba on Saturday morning that OpEx, which played a key role in the successes at London 2012 and Rio 2016, was about to be relaunched. 

“We’re gearing up to launch our OpEx programme. They have been waiting for it and we are getting ready to relaunch the programme,” she said. 

“We’re already engaging the local and international partners to assist our athletes in ... their training for Paris 2024. We’re engaging our partners and sponsors to invest in our athletes and travel this journey with us,” Jafta told athletes in a hybrid meeting at the Sascoc headquarters in Johannesburg. 

“There is a lot more that we will share at the right time, but I can safely say that the future is definitely looking brighter for our athletes.”

Hendricks has been promising the restoration of OpEx since early this year.

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