While there remains uncertainty around the Tokyo Olympic Games, it is all systems go for the South African contingent after the first members of the national team were unveiled on Thursday.
Despite international reports that the Games were still in doubt, host country Japan and the International Olympic Committee had repeatedly insisted the quadrennial showpiece would be held in July and August after being postponed last year due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Through the IOC we are engaging the Japanese government and the city of Tokyo daily,” said SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Barry Hendricks.
“There is a team on the ground and to date the IOC have said the Games are going ahead, and they would rather apply stringent protocols than have the Games being cancelled.
“We are willing to stay within those stringent protocols.”
A provisional Olympic squad was announced by Sascoc in seven sports – athletics, climbing, cycling, gymnastics, hockey (men and women), sailing and surfing.
Notable omissions included the likes of sprinter Wayde van Niekerk, middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and surfer Jordy Smith, who had not yet cemented their spots in the SA team for various reasons.
With a month remaining until the qualifying window closed in many codes, however, Sascoc remained confident it would take a full-strength squad to Tokyo.
“This first team announcement is an important milestone in our calendar and the preparation of athletes is going well despite the challenges of Covid,” Hendricks said.
Road cyclist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, among the first names to be selected, said she was eager to compete in Tokyo after finishing 10th in the women’s road race at the 2016 Rio Games.
And though she would understand if the showpiece was called off, or the SA team could not take part for whatever reason, she was confident the Olympics could be held as planned, based on events which had already been hosted around the globe.
“I want to race in Tokyo. It’s something I’ve been working towards and I want to go and make my country proud,” Moolman-Pasio said.
“We need to be responsible, but around the world many disciplines have proved sport can be held within the restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
“So I’m hoping to go, and I really want to compete in Tokyo, but I will understand if something happens and we can’t go.”
More athletes were expected to be added to the provisional national team within the next two weeks.
Sascoc had announced previously that it hoped to take a squad of more than 300 people (including team management and coaches) to the multi-sport spectacle, and all individuals and teams who qualified would be included in the final team which was set to be unveiled in early July.
Provisional SA team:
Akani Simbine, Clarence Munyai, Antonio Alkana, Cheswill Johnson, Ruswahl Samaai, Rocco van Rooyen, Jason van Rooyen, Stephen Mokoka, Desmond Mokgobu, Elroy Gelant, Wayne Snyman, Men’s 4X100m Relay and Men’s 4X400m Relay (the athletes are still to be determined by Athletics South Africa), Wenda Nel, Dominique Scott, Gerda Steyn, Irvette van Zyl
Erin Sterkenburg and Chris Cosser
Johan Spies, Charlene du Preez, David Maree, Daryl Impey, Ryan Gibbons, Nicholas Dlamini, Ashleigh Pasio-Moolman, Carla Oberholzer, Alan Hatherly, Candice Lill and Alex Limberg
Quanita Bobbs, Erin Christie, Lisa Deetlefs, Lilian du Plessis, Nicole Erasmus, Tarryn Glasby, Robyn Johnson, Charne Maddocks, Lerato Mahole, Phumelela Mbande, Edith Molikoe, Kristen Paton, Tarryn Potts, Celia Seerane, Nomnikelo Veto, Onthatile Zulu
Erasmus Pieterse, Timothy Drummond, Austin Smith, Mohamed Mea, Matthew Guise-Brown, Jethro Eustice, Nduduzo Lembethe, Taine Paton, Nicholas Spooner, Clinton Panther, Samkelo Mvimbi, Abdud Cassiem, Mustaphaa Cassiem, Nqobile Ntuli, Keenan Horne, Tevin Kok
Alex Burger and Benjamin Daniel