Schoolboy gets Paris Olympics spot as rower Smith eyes historic conquest

19 June 2024 - 23:00
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Bayanda Walaza, a Grade 12 pupil at Curro Hazeldean in Pretoria, was named in the South African team for the Paris Olympics on Wednesday night. He is one of the fastest teenagers in the world so far this year thanks to the 10.13sec effort he ran in March.
Bayanda Walaza, a Grade 12 pupil at Curro Hazeldean in Pretoria, was named in the South African team for the Paris Olympics on Wednesday night. He is one of the fastest teenagers in the world so far this year thanks to the 10.13sec effort he ran in March.
Image: Cecilia van Bers

Schoolboy Bayanda Walaza, the speedy kid with the crazy running style, was named in the South African Olympic team for the Paris Games on Wednesday night, alongside veteran rower John Smith who is looking to make his own piece of history.

The batch of athletes announced in a late-night broadcast included several medal hopes and raised the number of competitors to 110 so far, excluding reserves.

The final team will be completed only next month after the last codes, like athletics and rugby sevens, complete their qualification process.

The opening ceremony is set for July 26.

Smith, a member of the lightweight four crew that won gold at London 2012, will set a South African record of longest hiatus between medals should he and his pairs partner, Chris Baxter, reach the podium in Paris.

The biggest gap so far is eight years, held by tennis player Charles Winslow who won singles and doubles gold in 1912 and returned to take singles bronze in 1920, after the 1916 Games had been cancelled because of World War I.

Wayde van Niekerk, like triathlete Henri Schoeman and swimmer Chad Le Clos, will be trying to win medals after eight years, having last stepped onto a podium at Rio 2016.

Smith, who is competing in a different fourth boat, will equal most Olympics attended by a South African, which is four, shared by swimmers Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling and track-and-field competitors Sunette Viljoen and Hendrick Ramaala.

Irvette van Zyl, who was named in the first announcement last month, is also heading to her fourth Games.

Smith, 34, ended fourth in the lightweight men’s double sculls in Rio and at the back of the field in the men’s four at Tokyo 2020, a dismal result that spurred him to return to competition.

The athletes named on Wednesday night included the two fancied relay teams for the 4x400m and 4x100m.

Van Niekerk, Lythe Pillay, Zakithi Nene, Gardeo Isaacs and Antonie Nortje, all part of the side that took silver at World Relays in May, will be back in action in France.

The 4x100m outfit comprises Akani Simbine, US-based Shaun Maswanganyi, Benjamin Richardson, Walaza, who finished second behind Simbine at the national championships, and 19-year-old Bradley Nkoana, third in that race.

Walaza, who runs with flailing arms that make him look like he’s shadow-boxing, Nkoana, Richardson and Simbine were part of the team that qualified the relay for the Olympics.

South Africa’s cyclists will be looking to win their sport’s first Olympic medals since Melbourne 1956, with mountain-bikers Alan Hatherly and Candice Lill and road specialist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio leading the charge.

Schoeman, who has yet to show the sort of form he possessed when taking his Olympic triathlon bronze and Commonwealth Games gold in 2018, will race alongside promising talent Jamie Riddle. 

The men’s and women’s hockey teams featured the usual suspects, like Mustapha Cassiem and Dirkie Chamberlain, although Van Niekerk’s sister, Kayla Swarts, was named only as a reserve.

Other codes to still be finalised include golf, judo, equestrian, skateboarding, beach volleyball, cycling and the Blitzboks, who compete at their final qualification tournament in Monaco at the weekend.

Athletes for Team SA at the Olympics named on Tuesday:

ATHLETICS

Men: Shaun Maswangani (200m, 4x100m), Francois Prinsloo (discus), Elroy Gelant (marathon), Akani Simbine (4x100m), Bayanda Walaza (4x100m), Bradley Nkoana (4x100m), Benjamin Richardson (4x100m), Wayde van Niekerk (4x400m), Lythe Pillay (4x400m), Zakithi Nene (4x400m), Gardeo Isaacs (4x400m), Antonie Nortje (4x400m)

Reserves: Sinesipho Dambile, Adrian Swart

Management: Jean Verster, Hezekiel Sepeng, Paul Gorries, Maritz Coetzee, Samuel Sepeng, Mike Mbambani, John Smit, Neil Cornelius

ARCHERY

Men: Wian Roux (recurve)

Coach/Manager: Patrick Roux

BADMINTON

Women: Johanita Scholtz

Coach/Manager: Dillan Schaap

CYCLING

Men: Ryan Gibbons (road), Jean Spies (track), Alan Hatherley (MTB)

Women: Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (road), Tiffany Keep (road), Candice Lill (MTB), Miyanda Maseti (BMX)

Management: Ciska du Plessis-Austin, Nicole Shuttlewortth, Benedict Moqumo, Barry Austin, Jean-Pierre Jacobs, Tyler Klumper, Brigitte Mileson

FENCING

Men: Harry Saner (epee)

Coach/Manager: Guennadi Tychler

HOCKEY

Men: Daniel Bell, Dayaan Cassiem, Mustapha Cassiem, Calvin Davis, Matthew Guise-Brown, Andrew Hobson, Keenan Horne, Gowan Jones, Ryan Julius, Tevin Kok, Zenani Kraai, Samkelo Mvimbi, Nqobile Ntuli, Bradley Sherwood, Nicholas Spooner, Jacques van Tonder

Reserves: Hendrik Kriek, Nduduza (Peabo) Lembethe

Management: Donavin George, Cheslin Chie, Siphesihle Ntuli, Devon van der Merwe

Women: Taheera Augousti, Quanita Bobbs, Stephanie Botha, Dirkie Chamberlain, Erin Christie, Kayla de Waal, Paris-Gail Isaacs, Marie Antoinette Louw, Ongeziwe Mali, Ntsopa Mokoena, Edith Molikoe, Kristen Paton, Hannah Pearce, Celia Seerane, Anelle van Deventer, Onthatile Zulu

Reserves: Aphiwe Dimba, Kayla Swarts

Management: Lynn Abrahamse, Giles Bonnet, Marcelle Keet, Wayne Lombard

ROWING

Men: John Smith (pair), Christopher Baxter (pair)

Coach/Manager: Tiago Loureiro

RUGBY WOMEN SEVENS

Women: Liske Lategan, Ayanda Malinga, Shona-Leah Weston, Kemisetso Baloyi, Zintle Mpupha, Sizophila Solontsi, Mathrin Simmers, Nadine Roos, Elizabeth Janse van Rensburg, Veroeshka Grain, Marlize de Bruin, Maria Tshiremba, Byrhabdre Dolf, Shiniqwa Lamprecht, Zandile Masuku, Eloise Web

Management: Mokgatjane Leseke, Renfred Dazel, Cecil Afrika, Obakeng Molopyane

TRIATHLON

Men: Henri Schoeman, Jamie Riddle

Women: Vicky van der Merwe

Management: Riana Robertson, Lindsey Parry


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