Olympic watch

Medal Expectations

London Olympics 2012
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Oscar Pistorius was the surprise inclusion in the South African Olympic squad for the Games in London after he failed by 0.22 seconds to reach the qualifying time in the 400m at the Africa championships in Benin. But there were also other factors that probably played a role in his selection.

Perhaps the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee also took into account that conditions in Benin were less than ideal for runners. The wind and the dust made running hard and some members of the South African team had upset stomachs from the local food.

It was announced on Wednesday, last week, that Pistorius would take part in both the individual 400m event and the 4x400m relay as well as in four events in the Paralympics.

It has been a long road for him since 2007 to the Olympics in 2012.

He was banned in 2007 when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) complained about his prosthetics. He eventually won an extended court battle against the world body and featured for the South African team at the World championships in 2011. He emerged with a silver medal as member of the 4x100m relay team (although he was not selected to run in the final).

Apart from Cameron van der Burgh, Sunette Viljoen and Khotso Mokoena, Burry Stander has emerged as a realistic medal contender at the Olympics.

Stander won the Absa Cape Epic cycle tour in 2011 and 2012, was second at last year’s South African road championships and was also in the lead bunch when Robbie Hunter won the Argus Cyle Tour in 2008.

On the mountain bike, he is currently second in the World Cup series with one event to come.

He told the Sunday Times: “I’m separated from the leading rider by a few points so whoever finished above of the other, will win the series.”

Talking about his participation at the Olympics in London, he said: “In Beijing, I got the chance to enjoy the Games, I didn’t have a lot of pressure. This time it’s for me to try to get a medal.”

Mokoena might still surprise many observers at the Games. He was the only South African to win a medal in Beijing, but has been unconvincing this year in the long jump.

He feels that a jump of 8.55m can win him gold at the Olympics. Judging from the average year by most international jumpers, that verdict could just be spot on. There will not be much pressure on Mokoena, as he was below par for most of the year, and that might just suit the athletic South African.

In the mean time, there is much anticipation around the premier men’s sprint event at the Olympic Games. After outgunning his US team mate, Justin Gatlin, at the Diamond League on Friday, Tyson Gay, the world’s second fastest man, told www.supersport.com that the men’s 100m at the London Olympics is wide open and promises to be spectacular.

A host of sprinters are hitting form just as the reigning Olympic double sprint champion, Usain Bolt showed he was fallible.

Bolt was beaten twice in the Jamaican trials by training partner and current world 100m champion, Yohan Blake, and has now withdrawn from the 20 July meet in Monaco after picking up what his coach Glen Mills labelled a "slight" injury.

That little intrigue can only add to what is building up to be one of the most competitive events in recent history.

Although Gay, whose 9.69 second time is second only to Bolt's world record of 9.58 seconds, recorded a good reaction time in Friday's race. He wilted badly in the opening 15m to give Gatlin and France's, Christophe Lemaitre a head start. However, he proceeded to reel the duo in and flung himself at the finish line to nip Gatlin by four-hundredths of a second.

"I tried to be patient," Gay acknowledged. "I'm strong mentally and ready for challenges. At the trials it was a faster race but this was a better one for me technically,” he told Sapa AFP.

Gay’s assessment is spot on and to add insult to injury for Bolt, he was disqualified in the 100 at the World championships last year due to a false start.

The mental and psychological battles would therefore be key for both Bolt and Gay.

Can Bolt reproduce the form that catapulted him to three gold medals at Beijing?
Gay will be keen to deny him a second straight gold in the 100m.

It would be much more difficult to prevent him from winning the gold in the 200m, as he holds the world record with an astonishing 19.19 seconds over this distance.

Fanie Heyns

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