Gideon Sam © Gallo Images

Swimming, rowing the highlights for Sam

Sadness and happiness.

That is what Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), felt on the very last day of the Olympic Games.

It has been the most successful Olympic Games for South Africa since readmission to international sport in 1992. South Africa bagged three gold, two silver and one bronze medal – one silver better than the country's previous best showing, in Atlanta 1996.

"I was disappointed by athletics as they have not moved forward. In Beijing they delivered one silver medal and here in London once again. They should have been better. We set a very high standard for athletes and all deserved to be here, but at the Olympics you must grab your chances."

The highlight for Sam at the Olympics was the swimming and rowing. Swimming had no medals in Beijing, but here they produced three medals. The rowing was also spectacular and we did expect Bridgitte Hartley in canoeing to medal and she did not disappoint," he said.

Sam said if cycling does not produce one medal it is going to be difficult in the future to secure money for them.

"We had very high hopes for Sifiso Nhlapo in the BMX, but that did not happen as it did not at the track or road," he said.

Hockey has improved slightly from the previous Olympics.

"We were hoping for a ninth position and we got a 10th and 11th. So that was close enough – at least it wasn't last place, like in Beijing."

Sam noted that sponsors tend to want to support winners. "It is a basic fact that if the teams do good they will be backed by sponsors," he said.

But the hard work has already started behind the scenes with Sam.

"I had meetings with coaches to discuss the way forward. We are going to select a dream team that consists of 250 athletes for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow. We want them to be under the top 15 athletes in the Commonwealth.

"We do not want people to accuse us of not giving athletes opportunities. But for the Olympics in Rio the criteria will get harder. We expect the athletes in those two years to be in the top ten in the world.

"We expect athletes to consistently perform at the set levels and will give them the money and opportunities to compete at the highest level," said the sports boss.

Sam said they will look at improving rowing in South Africa after the gold they produced, and he has had discussions with the coach, Roger Barrow.

"We are looking to set up a facility in Tzaneen to help them. But it is no good just throwing money around. There must be systems and structures for all the sporting codes. But the codes that produced at the Olympics will get the help," he said.

He believes London delivered a very good Olympics.

"Everything was well organised and ran well. The athletes were looked well after," he said.


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