The national team will return home with a record 18 medals from the World Student Games after swimmers Tatjana Schoenmaker and Tayla Lovemore led the charge at the university showpiece which came to a close in Naples at the weekend.
Schoenmaker earned gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events, breaking her own African 100m record along the way by touching the wall in 1:06.32 in the semifinals.
Lovermore was equally impressive, winning gold in the women’s 50m and 100m butterfly finals and setting a South African record of 26.25 seconds over the sprint distance.
In other events in the pool, Zane Waddell grabbed a share of gold in the men’s 50m backstroke, clocking the same time (24.48) as Justin Ress of the United States.
Teenager Michael Houlie was also in good form, securing the silver medal in the men’s 50m breaststroke.
Meanwhile, distance runner Milton Kekana was the SA team’s only track and field athlete to win a title, taking gold in the men’s 10 000m race, but a number of other athletes contributed to the squad’s medal haul.
Chederick van Wyk earned silver in the men’s 100m and 200m sprints, while steeplechase specialist Rantso Mokopane took second position in his event, as did 400m hurdles prospects Soks Zazini and Zeney van der Walt.
Sprinter Gardeo Isaacs snatched the bronze medal in the men’s 400m event, and he went on to lead the 4x400m relay team to silver, while Adriaan Wildschutt and Ashley Smith finished third behind Kekana and Mokopane in the 10 000m and steeplechase finals respectively.
On the road, the SA women’s half-marathon squad earned bronze in the team competition.
Elsewhere, the national men’s team grabbed silver in the rugby sevens tournament, losing out in a narrow 15-12 defeat to Japan in the gold medal match.
The SA squad finished 10th in the final standings, raking in a total of six gold, eight silver and four bronze medals.
It was the nation’s biggest medal haul at the biennial student showpiece, bettering the 14-medal bag secured by the national team at the 2013 edition of the Games in Kazan.