The 2016 Rio Olympics may have come to an end, but the memories, the excitement, achievements and excellence will live on, especially for Team SA, who achieved the impressive medal haul, and the thousands of South Africans who proudly supported them.
From the very start, the 2016 Games brought out the best in South Africa; scrolling through Twitter using the hashtag #TeamSA shows mountains of heartfelt messages of support for our athletes from all corners of the country.
Besides almost-superhuman focus and physical ability, perhaps this wide-scale encouragement inspired the South African Olympians to give their ultimate best, and that best was enough to beat or at least challenge the world’s finest athletes.
Team SA’s Achievements:
Wayde van Niekerk – Men’s 400km
Caster Semenya – Women’s 800km
Chad le Clos – Men’s 200m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly
Cameron van der burgh – Men’s 100m Breaststroke
Luvo Manyonga – Men’s Long Jump
Sunette Viljoen – Women’s Javelin
Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain – Men’s Pair
Henri Schoeman – Triathlon
The gold medals won by Semenya and van Niekerk drove South African’s into a frenzy of national pride that could be easily witnessed on social media. Sporting experts had predicted months in advance that the unstoppable Semenya would win – seemingly effortlessly – in her category, so her claiming of the gold was almost expected. However, the fact that van Niekerk also broke a 17-year-old world record held by the US’s Michael Johnson when he took first place saw his fame further skyrocket at home and abroad, with Johnson even remarking that his record-breaking win of 43.03s was “a massacre”.
Though the performance and conduct of all the South African athletes who competed in this year’s Olympics is a point of pride for South Africa, what cannot get lost in the celebrations and congratulations is that during the period of 5 to 21 August, South Africans willingly and instinctively came together in support of our fellow countrymen and women, showing the international community a diverse nation that is united and patriotic. That is a memory that can never be forgotten and will hopefully inspire all our interactions and relations, now and in the future.