Road to London 2012
Believe it or not but we're already halfway through 2011 and as ever'here at Olympic House it just gets busier and busier. As far as SASCOC is'concerned our immediate priority for this quarter is our successful hosting of'the 123rd IOC Session in Durban in early July.
It's not every country who can'boast that they hosted the international Olympic fraternity and indeed it's an'honour to be the first country on the African continent to do so. Obviously the big news to come out of the Session will be the naming of the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics but there will also be many sporting decisions made during the Session.
It's a great opportunity to work all the more closely with the IOC and to be able to support them while they are here. I must emphasise the sheer quality in terms of status of the IOC members who will visit South Africa.
Our national government has also been extremely supportive in that the Honourable Sports Minister Mr Fikile Mbalula appointed an inter-ministerial committee to oversee the whole event and the support from government is significant. The minister was instrumental in driving the initiative to appoint the inter-ministerial committee. I'm sure that the Session will be a great successand we can build on our links with the global Olympic movement. Apart from my involvement in the IOC Session I've also been back to China to follow up our deal with a new clothing sponsor for our national teams for the period 2012 to2016. Behind the scenes we are still busy in the final phases of delivering teams for the Commonwealth Youth Games on the Isle of Man and the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique towards the end of the year.
I must also wish our national rugby team well ahead of the defence of their World Cup title in New Zealand as well as the netball team as they head off to Singapore for the World Championships in July.
And congratulations are also in order to Paul Treu's sevens rugby side who won the last two legs of the IRB Sevens World Series. This is a code that we'll be watching with ever-increasing interest, it being apart of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. Also good luck to our teams competing at the World Athletics and Swimming Championships. Without wishing to brag, following our hosting of the 7th World Conference on Sport, Education and Culture in Durban last year I received a letter from IOC President, Dr Jacques Rogge, congratulating South Africa and informing me I've been appointed amember of the Commission for Culture and Olympic Education. I'm excited at this news and looking forward to joining the commission and positively contributing to the cause.
The official SASCOC website has been up and running for two years now and is proving extremely popular with followers of all South African Olympic sport, from all corners of the globe. The site features a home page where the day's main stories are covered. Individual codes are covered in the bar across the top of the page, and feature the 26 different Olympic sports. Relevant sporting images are featured in a revolving format. The site is an interactive one, with comments enabled for all stories. SASCOC values all constructive input by web visitors (and Road to London 2012 magazine readers). A search engine is also available for visitors' convenience and there's also a handy 2012 countdown clock in place. Paralympics, Commonwealth Games, Youth Olympics, World Games sections also feature on the site as do the Athletes' Commission as well asvarious selection policies, coaching frameworks and President's Council resolutions. A regular Media Watch column is featured on the site and SASCOCcontact details and membership details are also available.
Recent feedback from website visitors
TOPIC: HP COACHING CONFERENCE FEEDBACK
For SA to win more medals at the Olympics we need to allow and encourage any child who takes part and practises an Olympic sport anywhere in SA and has the means,r esources and the facilities available to do his/her sport everyday, and not to be bullied by schools not recognising their sport because it is not a "schoolsport." Lots of kids are forced to do "school sport" instead of their Olympic sport. This means the two hours the kid spends on the "school sport" field are two hours he/she could have spent on his Olympic sport. If you add the hours lost one can understand why we (SASCOC) just want a dozen medals instead of hundreds!!! If we want to get more medals a child should have the choice to do his/her own sport (not a choice between two school sports).
TOPIC: SO CLOSE FOR ERNST
FROM: KOBUS MARAIS
Ernst, well done. Jy het steeds puik presteer en dit wys daar's nog baie murg in daai pype van jou. Gaan net voort my vriend, en die suksesse sal daar wees, in aanloop tot die 2012 Paralympics.
TOPIC: JUNIOR HAUL GIVES HOPE
Well done to the athletes, their coaches,parents, provincial bodies and ASA for the support given to our future stars!Mr Evans made valid comments: "One of the biggest challenges our senior athletes have is that when they get to major championships they are over awed. So getting them used to winning medals at youth and junior Level is an important step in creating future stars." Provinces need to select and expose more youth and sub-youth athletes to national competitions.
TOPIC: SA BOOKGAMES SPOT
I really love volleyball, I started playing it when Iwas 11 and when I was 12 I played at provincial level. I hope to be in the SA squad one day. I wish all players the best at the All Africa Games.
Being "different" in even the smallest of ways often brings out the cruellest side in kids. Ask Chenelle van Zyl, who can speak from personal experience. Born with cerebral palsy, Van Zyl went to life's school of hard knocks - quite literally. She speaks easily of the experience now but it's clear it was hurtful at thetime.
"I went to Lantern High because it was only two blocks from my house and with a maximum of 20 people in a class I could get the individual attention I needed. But it was hard to cope in my first year because the kids there are physically normal and they teased me a lot and sometimes even pushed me down the stairs. But within a year they got used to me and I even made some friends," she says almost poignantly.
To say Van Zyl has stood up and made a fist of things is something of an understatement. Should she make the team fornext year's Paralympic Games in London, it will be her third Paralympics, having been part of Team SA at the Athens and Beijing Games in 2004 and 2008 respectively. It's anyone's guess whether the school bullies took a step back to see just how far she's come. Certainly her career curve since Athens 2004 has moved in only one direction and that's up. The field events are herspeciality - in Athens it was shot put, discus and javelin. In Beijing shedropped the javelin to concentrate on the first two events. At the time of writing, shortly after she'd been part of a para-athletics tour to Europe, she was ranked second in the world for discus (25.74m) and third in the shot put(8.51m) for her disability class (F35). Progress indeed, and should that performance graph continue on its upward curve she could well be celebrating her first Paralympic medal (dare we say medals) in 2012.
Van Zyl, now 27, lives in Helderkruin, Roodepoort, and when she's not out training, works in a call centre. "I've been participating in sports for the physically disabled since Iwas 11 years old and from the first day sport became my life," she says. "My love for sport first started when I was at West Rand School for the physically disabled." Things moved fast from then and it wasn't long before she made the grade at a higher level.
"My first SA Championships for the Physically Disabled were in 1997 where I walked away with five gold medals and two new South African records. Since then I've participated at the National Championships every year and have won lots of medals and broken a lot more South African records," she says without a hint of boastfulness.
It took nine of those SAChampionships before the moment every para-athlete dreams of. "I got a letter in the post saying that I was part of the final team to represent my country at the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece, 2004. I was so, so thrilled that day and just couldn't stop crying out of excitement and sheer disbelief. I came back from Athens with ninth in the shot put, eighth in the discuss and eighth in the javelin." Fast forward four years to Beijing and there was a marked improvement." In China I achieved fifth place in the shot put and sixth in the discus.
Do the maths and see that Van Zyl is now ranked second and third in the world for discus and javelin respectively and if her progress continues she's going to be one of the favourites come London. Back to the early years and like so many young athletes it was family she had to thank for laying the foundations.
"My first coach was my mom, Trichelle. She came with me to the field after school for practice [sometimes two hours or so], and we even boughtsome 2-3kg weights to train with at home as I couldn't afford a gym contract."
She also wonders about where she got her athletics - I got a letter In the post saying that I was part of the fInal team to represent my country atthe paralympIc games In athens, greece, 2004. I was so, so thrIlled that day and just couldn't stop cryIng out of excItement and sheer dIsbelIef' talent from.
"Neither my mom nor my dad ever did athletics, nor did my sister ...she first did modelling work and now she's doing a three-month yoga course, that's about the closest sporting link I have in the family. I guess I'm just the tom boy in the family."
"In January 2007 I got my first real coach in thef ield events, Pierre Blignault. We trained at the Ruimsig Athletic stadiumuntil the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. He really helped me a lot with my technique and my distances definitely improved. After that it was back to myself and my momas Pierre and I went our separate ways."
A huge turning point came two years later with some much-needed assistance from South Africa's Olympic governingbody SASCOC. "In November 2009 when I started on the OPEX programme with SASCOCI at last had money to pay for a gym contract - I met a personal trainer, Jacques Peche, at the Virgin Active gym in Horizon, Roodepoort. We started training very hard in the gym five times a week for the first eight months. After that we went on to the field on the weekends."
"Jacques is still my coach in the gym and I got another coach in the field, Hennie Koekemoer at theUniversity of Johannesburg. He has been training me since the beginning of May this year." He is very good and it shows with the results for my last competitions in the United Kingdom in July where I had a throw of 25.74m [a new African record] which is the distance that puts me second in the world rankings in my disability class F35. I also threw a distance of 8.51m in my shot put which was a new African record, although I'm still third on the rankings with shot put.
Speaking of her European tour, apart from her athletics exploits where she broke the African record in each of the three cities where she participated - Leverkusen and Singen (both in Germany) and Stoke (England) - she also had timeto do a bit of sight seeing. "My highlight was going to Switzerland, even though it was just for two hours. We saw the most awesome waterfall. It was very green and the air was so fresh. It was just like the movies."
Away from competition -Van Zyl openly admits that her only real hobby is sport - she says there's not much time left for anything else. "If I have some spare time you'll find me in the gym or on the field practising. I like to spend time with my partner watching DVDs into the early morning, only on weekends, though!" Her favourite athlete is a fellow para-participant, Oscar Pistorius. "He was my first athletics hero. I watched him when he did so well at the Athens Paralympics and to see him running in real life is totally awesome." It will also be an awesome achievement should she medal in London. "I've qualified for the Games by more than seven metres in the discus and by more than a metre in the shot put but that doesn't mean I'm an automatic choice- that depends on SASCOC."
One thing's for sure, if ambition means anything she'll be one of the first names pencilled in. "It's a dream, every single day, to get a medal, even a bronze at the Paralympics. That's what I'm working so hard for - It's my life."
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