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09 July 2019 | in CUSF News, NUSF News

Halfway through Summer Universiade 2019, #TeamSA is Africa’s shining light

How time flies! We are already halfway through what has so far been a memorable, spectacular and no doubt unique at the Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade, with riveting action on display across all 18 sports on show at this year’s 30th edition of the event.

Of the 113 countries participating in this year’s Summer Games, 31 countries hail from the African continent, with the largest contingent being the South African delegation made up of 171 participants, 128 of which are student-athletes.

 

It therefore comes as no surprise that South Africa lead the way in terms of African medals won at the halfway stage at this year’s Universiade so far, with the South Africans already surpassing their eight-medal target they had set themselves before jetting off to Italy.

 

Always a force across various sporting disciplines across the country, South Africa – by their own standards – underperformed at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei, ending 44th on the overall medal table with five silver medals, and second in Africa behind Uganda.

 

After naming a strong squad for this year’s event, South Africa has been Africa’s shining light so far in Napoli as one of just two countries from the continent to have medalled after seven days of competition … and not just medalled, but claiming six golds in the process.

 
South Africa's Taylor Lovemore stands atop the Summer Universiade swimming podium in the Women's 100m Butterfly event. The University of Florida student was her country's first to podium, taking gold in 50m Butterfly as well.

First to summit the podium was swimming sensation Taylor Lovemore, who added her country’s name onto the medals table with a fine performance in the Women’s 50m Butterfly final. The Florida University student was not done there, however, following that up with another gold-medal performance in the 100m Butterfly, making her debut Universiade event one to remember.

 

Following Lovemore’s lead was fellow swimmer and Commonwealth Games champion Tatjana Schoenmaker, who also struck gold twice. South Africa’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony set a new African and South African record in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke final, before again claiming gold in the 200m Breaststroke event.

 
Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa’s flag-bearer to open the 30th Summer Universiade, set a new African and South African record in the Women's 100m Breaststroke

The University of Pretoria student, in her second Universiade after claiming a solitary silver medal last time round, has grown in leaps and bounds since Taipei 2017, but has thoroughly enjoyed being back at the Summer Universiade.

 

“Obviously the Commonwealth Games was a step up for me, but it’s always nice coming back to where I started off and where I actually had my breakthrough, so it’s nice to come here to Naples with a bit more confidence than I had last time, because last time I might have been a little scared,” she told FISU. “So yes, it’s definitely been fun and the vibe is amazing.”

 

South Africa’s fifth gold medal also came from the pool, as Zane Waddell claimed first prize in the 50m backstroke, sharing the gold medal with America’s Justin Ress as the duo touched the wall at exactly the same time, while compatriot Michael Houlie claimed silver in the 50m breaststroke final.

 

After the South African women’s Rugby Sevens team narrowly missed out on the podium after losing to Russia in the bronze-medal match, the men’s team – and reigning FISU World University Championships winners – faced off against Japan in a pulsating final, as they finished with the silver medal around their necks following a 15-12 victory for the Japanese, who completed the double in the men and women’s Rugby 7s event.

 

Moving onto the athletics track, the first day of finals at the Stadio San Paolo was a fruitful one for South Africa, as two athletes ended on the podium in the 10 000m final with Milton Kekana claiming gold – the sixth for South Africa so far in Napoli – while compatriot Adrian Wildschutt placed third.

 

In the highly anticipated 100m final speedster Chederick Van Wyk from the North West University was beaten to the line only by Brazilian Paulo Camilo as he claimed South Africa’s third silver medal of the Summer Universiade.

 
Seiff Eissa (leftO of Egypt taking on Minwoo Sang of the Republic of Korea’s in the -80kg Taekwondo final. Eissa's silver put Egypt on the medal table.

The only other African country to join South Africa on the medals table so far is Egypt, where 21-year-old Seiff Eissa went down to Republic of Korea’s Minwoo Sang in the -80kg Taekwondo final, claiming the silver medal and the process, Egypt’s first medal of the Games.

 

And so, as it stands, South Africa and Egypt remain the only two African countries to feature on the overall medal table, with South Africa leading the way with six golds, three silvers and one bronze medal to sit seventh on the standings, while Egypt’s solitary silver medal so far puts them in 32nd place overall.

 

Despite valiant efforts by Zambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe in the Tennis competition, the opposition proved too strong for their athletes to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition.

 

Yet Africa’s hopes will surely be pinned on the ample opportunities for medals in the rest of the track and field events, where the majority of the 31 African nations have entered their strongest participants. The first-round heats kicked off on Day 5, yet with the athletics finals continuing until Day 10, expect a number of fellow African countries to join South Africa and Egypt on the medal table.

 
Taylor Lovemore sporing some extra style on the podium to the Women’s 50m Butterfly

 

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