International Sport

Rowing in Rio de Janeiro

South African rowing duo and UP High Performance Centre athletes John Smith and James Thompson narrowly missed out on a podium finish as they finished fourth in the lightweight double sculls final.

The duo’s time of 6:33.29 min was not enough to get a medal as they finished behind France’s Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou, who grabbed the gold medal, Ireland’s Gary and Paul O’Donovan who finished second, and Norway’s Brun Kristoffer and Strandli Are who narrowly beat the South Africans to the bronze medal.

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Restoration for Manyonga in Rio

UP-Tuks track and field athlete Luvo Manyonga added to the South African Olympic medal tally on 14 August. The 25-year old made national headlines by scooping the silver medal in the long jump event.

Manyonga had a strong start as he stood in pole position leading up to the climax of the event with a jump of 8.28 m. He improved on his lead when he sprang a distance of 8.37 m with his fifth attempt and gold looked very probable. Unfortunately, Manyonga miscued his last attempt and was unable to improve on that. American Jeff Henderson snatched away gold when he grazed a mere 1 cm past Manyonga’s standing lead.

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Leroux Hamman shows why hard work pays off

Team South Africa will have its full complement of men’s 400 m hurdlers at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro from 5-21 August, and one of them will be UP’s very own Leroux Hamman. The 24-year-old athlete achieved the Olympic qualifying time at UP-Tuks Athletics’ opening of its new athletics track this past June, winning his race with a new personal best of 49.24 s, demolishing his previous only sub-50 run of 49.99 s. For years, Hamman was considered as one of many local 400 m hurdles runners hoping to break the 50 second barrier. According to Hamman, “four hard years of training and devotion” has allowed the UP athlete to initially change his time from 50.99 s to 49.99 s, which was the first indication that Hamman was improving.

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World record for Wayde

Wayde van Niekerk made history in the early hours of Monday 15 August when he became the world’s 400 m Olympic champion. He broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old record with a time of 43.03 s. His competitors included gold medallists Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt.

Fans were nervous about Van Niekerk’s position leading up to the race, as he was set to take the outside line. Athletes who compete in this lane are described as “running blind”, without an awareness of the distance from their competitors. Van Niekerk held his lead from the start of the race as commentators questioned whether he would be able to keep up his pace.

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Rowing in Rio: men’s duty four crew

Jonty Smith, Vincent Breet, Jake Green and David Hunt are four names to remember this Olympic year. These four make up the men’s heavy duty four rowing team. They became South Africa’s fifth boat to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games, with only two spots up for grabs at the final qualification regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in June. Hunt and Green are UP students who have experienced a journey to qualification that has, by no means, been easy. The team missed the qualifying time at the World Rowing Championships in France last year August, and some adjustments to the team were made by promoting Lawrence Brittain (former UP student) and replacing Sizwe Ndlovu. Coach Roger Barrow said that although this was a new crew, all the athletes had performed internationally. The pressure leading up to qualification had been immense, and as Breet explained, for four years of training to come down to six minutes of racing was “mildly terrifying”.

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