What a golden week Team SA is having at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. South Africa's athletes are exuding success, the nation is beaming with pride and a top-three finish in the medals table is still on the cards.
Team SA has won 32 medals so far — 11 gold, nine silver and 12 bronze — and South Africa is finally fulfilling its potential as a global athletics powerhouse.
Athletics in the country is going through a renaissance. A decade ago, we were merely competing, languishing in the middle of the medal table. But now we find ourselves in at the top of the table, after finishing first in the 2017 IAAF Youth Championships. The meteoric rise can be attributed in large part to our athletes' hard work and dedication. The achievements of the likes of sprinter Akani Simbine, long-jumper Luvo Manyonga and sprinter Henricho Bruintjies are signs that South Africa is ushering in a new generation of golden athletes.
Our female athletes have excelled, especially at Gold Coast 2018. Gone are the days when Caster Semenya was South Africa's only female hope of winning a medal, SA now has a large female contingent capable of outperforming many world-class athletes in their respective sporting codes.
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Here's a look at five South African heroines from the Commonwealth Games:
5. Colleen Piketh – Lawn Bowls
One of the oldest SA athletes (45) at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Colleen Piketh took bronze in the women's bowls singles competition. Piketh competes in both the singles and pairs bowls, and has now won medals at successive Commonwealth Games.
2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games: 1 gold, 1 bronze🏅🏅
2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games: 1 bronze🏅
4. Mona Pretorius – Weightlifting
Mona Pretorius took third place for weightlifting in the women's 63kg final. It's a just reward after years of persistence as it took 12 years from her debut to clinch bronze in the weightlifting event.
100m champ Simbine lauded Pretorius, saying he'd be intimidated to be her gym partner.
3. Sunette Viljoen – Javelin
Sunette Viljoen had to overcome a back injury before she could take bronze in the women's javelin final, with a best heave of 62.08m. She has now earned medals at four successive Commonwealth Games, and took to Twitter to express her delight at reaping the fruits of her labour.
After a tough battle with a back injury, I am leaving Australia with my 4th consecutive Commonwealth Games medal. Really proud. Thank you @GC2018 for a wonderful games! #ShareTheDream pic.twitter.com/fU8MBLqH5v— Sunette Viljoen (@Sunette_Viljoen) April 12, 2018
Her impressive Commonwealth Games record in the javelin event dates back to 2006.
2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games: 1 Gold🏅
2010 Dehli Commonwealth Games: 1 Gold🏅
2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games: 1 Silver 🏅
2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games: 1 Bronze🏅
2. Caster Semenya – Track
It was a hugely anticipated race that yielded a result the South African public probably expected. Caster Semenya took gold in the Commonwealth Games women's 1,500m, but no one could have predicted how she'd do it.
The team flag bearer absolutely stormed the final stretch, breaking a national record and winning the first 1,500m Commonwealth Games medal of her career. She took the bronze at the 2017 London IAAF Championships.
She is scheduled to compete in the 800m on Friday and is expected to win another gold.
1. Tatjana Schoenmaker
Meet South Africa's new swimming sensation, Tatjana Schoenmaker. The 20-year-old took the games by storm — or, rather, made waves in the pool — as she ascended to the upper echelons of South Africa's swimming sorority. She outshone world stars Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh after winning back-to-back golds.
Schoenmaker is definitely the new cover girl of SA swimming. She won two gold medals, in the women's 100m and 200m breaststroke, smashing the African records for both, the latter with a time of 2:22.02.
Halala to all the SA queens!