2 minute read
17 Sep 2014
2:03 pm

HPC athletes delivering the goods

Housing some of the country's top Olympic talent, the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria on Wednesday celebrated its recent achievements at major international events.

FILE PICTURE: Chad le Clos. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Winning 11 gold medals, three silver and four bronze over the last few months, the success of the HPC athletes began at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where they contributed richly to South Africa’s medal haul.

Among the star performers were 400m hurdles ace Cornel Fredericks and horizontal jumps king Khotso Mokoena.

Fredericks experienced a phenomenal season by claiming the Commonwealth Games title before adding the African Athletics championships and Continental Cup gold to his collection.

In 13 races this season, Fredericks has only failed once to finish in the top three, while on seven occasions he finished first.

Mokoena must be considered one of South Africa’s most decorated athletes of all time after he won the gold medal in the triple jump at the Games before adding the African Championships title to his long list of accolades.

He improved his own South African record, which he set in Durban in April 2005, by 10 centimetres in the hop-skip-and-jump at the Continental Cup for the silver medal.

He highlighted his versatility becoming the first South African athlete to finish top of the Diamond League standings, claiming overall victory in the men’s long jump discipline.

Mokoena has won a medal at every major international athletics championships — Olympic Games, World Championships, World Indoor Championships, World Junior Championships and Commonwealth Games.

Also among the athletes honoured for their world-class performances were the South African rowers.

They made history this year by winning the country’s first gold when the lightweight double sculls crew of James Thompson and John Smith claimed the title at the World Rowing Championships in the Netherlands in a World best time.

To add to the team’s success, the men’s heavyweight pair of Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet won the bronze medal in their event.

“To Roger Barrow, who coaches the rowers, we are really proud of what you’ve done because we know it is you that drive these athletes to perform,” HPC chief executive Toby Sutcliffe said on Wednesday.

“Roger is considered by many as a sort of chess master of international rowing. He is able to make the right move at the right time using the right combinations in a boat.

“That is the reason why South Africa enjoyed an outstanding world championships campaign, qualifying five Olympic-class boats for the A-finals.”

Another Olympic medallist, sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley claimed a bronze medal at the Sprint World Canoeing Championships in Moscow.

Judoka Zack Piontek grabbed gold in the under-90kg class at the Commonwealth Games where he was one of four to win a medal for judo.

Sutcliffe said the HPC-sponsored athletes could contribute as many as seven medals to South Africa’s possible haul in Rio.

“We still want those seven medals, and we are determined and working hard to get them,” he said.

“We are relying on every single one of you (the athletes) including my sport scientists and medical staff to make sure we deliver athletes on the podium in Rio.”