Brad Tandy (Ladysmith Gazette)

Brad Tandy (Ladysmith Gazette)

The three silver medals between Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, could once again paint a rosy picture of the health of swimming in South Africa when the sport is in a state of decline. Brad Tandy was the only other swimmer to feature in a final in a squad with a lonely female swimmer – Open Water swimmer Michelle Weber.

Swimming SA (SSA) were unable to secure any funding since London 2012 despite boasting two Olympic champions, and it is difficult to imagine how the situation will change ahead of Tokyo 2020.

ATHLETICS

HOW THEY DID: Producing its best medal haul since readmission, it is tempting to credit Athletics SA (ASA) for the sport’s performance at the Rio Olympics.

The two gold medals courtesy of Caster Semenya, above, and world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk and the silver medals by Luvo Manyonga and Sunette Viljoen was the country’s best in track and field since Barcelona 1992. A few more medal prospects went abegging with athletes underperforming while ASA messed up royally by not doing enough to qualify relay teams and not enter Akani Simbine for the 200m.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: A sprint revolution is well under way while the country has also sent its largest athletics team to the Games. It is now up to the powers-that-be to capitalise on the expected spike in interest. Instead of the boardroom squabbles from the last few years, ASA need to create opportunities through quality meets to unearth and nurture talent. There is a case to be made for national academies while an elite squad provided with funding and support would prepare athletes for major competitions.

Cameron van der Burgh (Getty Images)

Cameron van der Burgh (Getty Images)

SWIMMING

HOW THEY DID: The three silver medals between Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, could once again paint a rosy picture of the health of swimming in South Africa when the sport is in a state of decline.

Brad Tandy was the only other swimmer to feature in a final in a squad with a lonely female swimmer – Open Water swimmer Michelle Weber.

Swimming SA (SSA) were unable to secure any funding since London 2012 despite boasting two Olympic champions, and it is difficult to imagine how the situation will change ahead of Tokyo 2020.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: Female representation and development in general need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Swimming has been riding on the coattails of Van der Burgh and Le Clos’ success for far too long, and it was time to increase the depth of talent. The national championships need stricter qualifying standards to improve the quality of competition. SSA have made an effort in creating opportunities through the Grand Prix series which needs to become a permanent fixture on the swimming calendar.

ROWING

HOW THEY DID: Boxing well above its weight, rowing qualified all five of its boats into finals with the men’s coxless pair of Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling, above, winning the silver medal.

While they did not produce the expected three medals, their performance was nevertheless impressive considering the small pool of talent in the country.

The men’s lightweight double sculls crew of James Thompson and John Smith, and the four boat finished in fourth place in their respective finals while the female crews were fifth in boat classes.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: Roger Barrow has created possibly the country’s most successful sports programmes on the back of limited funding.

Rowing’s elite-squad system had done exceptionally well with some help from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.

For sustained success, Barrow and his management team will need more funding from corporates, and further support.

Henri Schoeman (Getty Images)

Henri Schoeman (Getty Images)

TRIATHLON

HOW THEY DID: The smart money was on Richard Murray for a medal but instead Henri Schoeman, above, went away with the men’s bronze medal for triathlon’s best performance at the Games.

Murray finished just seven seconds behind Schoeman following a hellraising run for fourth place.

Mari Rabie finished in 11th place in the women’s race while Gillian Sanders finished in 23rd place.

Triathlon qualified one more athlete than in London 2012 with the code nearly qualifying five in total.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: As one of the Cinderella sports, triathlon will always be struggling due to a lack of funding. The sport will be looking for more funds towards developing more talent like Schoeman and Murray. The duo are likely to be there again in Tokyo and could be challenging for two podium spots. Expect more local triathlons as the sport aims to reduce the extensive travelling the athletes have to do to compete at international competitions.

GOLF

HOW THEY DID: Golf’s return was always going to be contentious, especially after the reaction of the game’s best players towards the Olympics. Once the action got under way, the going proved tough for Jaco van Zyl, above, and Brandon Stone, both finishing well out of the medals. The same applied to Paula Reto and Ashleigh Simon in the women’s draw, though Van Zyl provided a career highlight by firing only the second hole-in-one at the Olympics, during his third round.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: If Team South Africa have a full roster of players to choose from, the level of competitiveness will immediately rise. The likes of Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, as well as Lee-Anne Pace in the women’s side, have international pedigree. If all step up and commit to Tokyo 2020, then there is a reasonable chance of a medal. There is still talk of changing the format to amateur golf or team golf, and both options would also play into South African hands.

FOOTBALL

HOW THEY DID: Both the men’s and women’s side drew what appeared to be their toughest games on paper, both against Brazil, to give themselves a great chance of at least getting to the last eight. Somehow, neither did, though the women still appear to be a team in transition. The men, on the other end, are a team that will have to be broken down again.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: For the women, coach Vera Pauw must be allowed to build a team around a star like Jermain Seoposenwe, above, who will only get better with age and maturity. The men need to find a striker who has the calmness to convert the countless chances they create. Of course, being the Under-23s, they will also have a much-changed squad. Composure is key over the next four years for both sides.

SPRINT CANOE

HOW THEY DID: Four years ago, the bronze medal that Bridgitte Hartley, above, claimed in the 500m was a pleasant surprise. Four years on, she didn’t make the A final, and rued not having decent training partners to provide a competitive edge. The sport’s great disadvantage remains the lack of numbers on the water, which means the likes of Hartley have no option but to go overseas for regular competition.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: More participation is the only way to increase medal prospects. Hartley may yet return in a K2 boat, but that cannot be where the buck stops. South Africa have many paddlers performing on the international stage, but until there is enough of an incentive being dangled, Hartley will remain the only canoeing medallist. The facilities are there, too, so it is a matter of encouraging promising paddlers to stick it out.

SEVENS RUGBY

HOW THEY DID: The fact that Neil Powell’s men medalled was no surprise. They had the team, the experience and the preparation to go all the way, but came unstuck in a semi-final against Great Britain. Did well to regroup and thump Japan in the bronze medal match, but left Rio with a deep sense of what could have been, as a finale against Fiji would have been a fitting end to what was one of the highlights of the entire Olympic programme.

TO BE DONE BEFORE TOKYO 2020: If Powell, above, sees out the next four years, he has admitted that he may need to look at the mindset he puts his team in before major matches. Retaining as many of the core from Rio is imperative, but some legs won’t get there. Sevens still remains one of South Africa’s best bets for a medal, but careful planning and selection can ensure they have the best possible chance to go all the way in Tokyo.

The Sunday Independent