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Timeline: The Evolution Of Athletics In South Africa Over The Past 10 Years

Our stars have changed the country's fortunes.

14/08/2017 12:10 SAST | Updated 18/09/2017 09:02 SAST

Athletics South Africa has come a long way since the 2008 Beijing Olympics when the country only came back with one medal. Fast-forward to 2017 and the country has transformed itself into one of the finest sporting nations on the continent.

Athletics in the country is alive and that's a fact. With Wayde Van Niekerk and Caster Semenya both grabbing gold at the IAAF championship, ASA has reached a phase where continental domination is on the horizon.

ASA has changed its fortunes with the help of golden stars Semenya, Van Niekerk and swimmer Chad Le Clos. Our athletes have won not only medals but the world's attention.

HuffPost SA takes a look at the nearly decade-long journey of ASA and how the sport has evolved into a potential continental and global powerhouse.

2008 Beijing Olympics
Following the success of the 2004 Athens Olympics in Greece, the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China was seen as the dawn of a new era in South African Olympics. Instead, it was the South Africa's worst showing in terms of results and medals. ASA only came back with a dismal solitary medal, courtesy of Khotso Mokoena who claimed silver in long jump.

The disappointing showing at such a prestigious global event was perhaps a blessing in disguise for ASA, as it signaled a turning point and the evolution of ASA.

David Gray / Reuters
Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa

2011: ASA greed and corruption
An unpleasant period reigned between 2010 and 2011 when the organisation's president admitted to corruption and not handling Semenya's gender saga. According to the M&G, Leonard Chuene was found guilty of an unauthorised salary increase of R19,067 to R35,000 a month.

Bare in mind ASA was going through dire financial issues. Chuene was fired, and the corruption and greed were a catalyst for the rebirth of a new look ASA.

Getty Images
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 25, Leonard Chuene (ASA President)

2012 London Olympics
The 2012 London Olympics will be remembered as the year Le Clos beat great Olympian Michael Phelps. It was the breakthrough year for the 20-year-old at the time as he claimed an unprecedented gold in 200m butterfly, the race everyone presumed Phelps would win. This was a major victory for ASA, as swimming solidified itself as ASA's saving grace in the midst of all of its woes.

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South Africa's Chad le Clos celebrates after winning the Men's 200m Butterfly Final at the Aquatics Centre, London during day four of the London 2012 Olympics.

2012 Olympics saw South Africa win three gold medals with Le Clos, Cameron Van Der Burgh and the rowing team taking first place. It was also the year Semenya made headlines when she won silver but was overclouded by gender discrimination.

Team SA went home with six medals and Le Clos was the national hero after beating Phelps. It was a beautiful period for ASA, but the best was still to come.

PA Archive/PA Images
Gold Medalist South Africa's Chad le Clos (centre), Silver Medalist USA's Michael Phelps (right) and Bronze Medalist Japan's Takeshi Matsuda receive their medals after the Men's 200m Butterfly

2016 Rio Olympics
The year Wayde van Niekerk introduced himself to the world was when he won gold in the 400m at the Rio Olympics. It was also ASA's best Olympics based on results as Team SA came home with 10 medals (two gold, six silver and two bronze). It was also the year Semenya was crowned the world champion of the 800m. This is when the momentum began. ASA was at an all-time high as the country's star athletes defeated renowned champions and were on the verge of world domination.

Van Der Burgh, Luvo Manyonga and the Springbok Sevens side were also among the medalists.

David Gray / Reuters
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 400m Final - Olympic Stadium

2017 IAAF Youth Championship
2017 was the year all South Africans started to realise that our athletics were alive and running. South Africa's athletics team produced one of its finest ever performances at the World IAAF Championship. Team SA topped the medals chart in the 2017 IAAF U/18 age group. The games were hosted in Nairobi, Kenya.

Team SA stood on a pedestal as it clinched 11 medals and jumped ahead of China. The stellar performance from our track and field athletes caught the eye of the world, more especially gold winner Breyton Poole.

Poole stole the show with his sheer size and determination. The 1.7m tall athlete jumped over 2.24m to claim gold in the high jump. Team SA topped the charts with five Golds, three Silver and three Bronze.

Ben Hoskins via Getty Images
NAIROBI, KENYA - JULY 15: Breyton Poole of South Africa celebrates clearing the bar

2017 IAAF London Championships

Van Niekerk was at it again. After storming to gold in the 400 metre at the IAAF, he also secured silver in the 200m. He gave an emotional interview on Thursday after winning and broke down in tears, saying he "deserved" what he achieved following criticism by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC has been quite hard on South African athletes and downplayed Van Niekerk's achievements.

Karwai Tang via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates winning gold in the Women's 800 Metres