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05 February 2018 | in Swimming, Summer Universiade, NUSF News

South African Universiade stars set for Commonwealth stage

No less than eight South African athletes who were selected for last year’s 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei have made the national team for this year’s Commonwealth Games, a step up in the career for many as they look to pursue their sporting dreams.

 

A proud sporting nation, South Africa last week announced their squad for this year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, set to take place between 4-15 April this year. South Africa, who finished with a total of 40 medals and in seventh position at the Glasgow Games in 2014, will be represented across 16 sporting codes this year, and have included in their various teams a commendable eight of last year’s Universiade stars to help bring them glory Down Under.

 

Team South Africa struggled in Taipei at the Student Games last year, ending 44th on the medal standings with just five silver medals, with many of the athletes hoping to now prove their mettle on an even bigger stage.

 

Headlining the list of current and former students to have made the step up is swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker, the only 2017 Taipei medallist of the eight called up, as she looks to build on the silver medal she earned in the 200m backstroke at last year’s Summer Universiade.

 

Joining her in the women’s swimming team is Emma Chelius, who reached the semi-finals of the 50m freestyle at the Universiade, as well as Emily Visagie, a 200m breaststroke semi-finalist.

 Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade medalists in the Women's Breaststroke 200m final

Two male swimmers present at last year’s Games also made the 12-man male swimming squad, with sixth place 200m backstroke placer Martin Binedell and Ryan Coetzee, who was knocked out in the heats of the shorter distance butterfly and freestyle events, earning a call-up to the senior Commonwealth team.

 

Bongani von Bodenstein – who lost in the first round of his badminton match against Malaysia at the Universiade – will hope to fare better in Australia, while Constant Pretorius, who came sixth in the 400m hurdles final in Taipei, also makes the cut.

Long jumper Ruswahl Samaai, who was initially included in the 2017 Taipei team, but then pulled out to focus on the IAAF World Championships, where he won bronze, is also included in the South African Commonwealth squad, as he looks to improve upon the bronze medal he achieved in Glasgow four years ago.

 Thando Roto was another South African athlete who performed well in Taipei, winning a Summer Universiade medal in the 100m dash. Roto was joined on the podium by Chun-Han Yang of Chinese Taipei and Cameron Burrell from the USA Team.

Two former elder Universiade stars will also don the green and gold for South Africa in Australia as Sunette Viljoen, who claimed gold at the 2009 and 2011 World Student Games, will look to add to her 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth gold medals this year, while Olympian Akani Simbine, who won gold in both the 100m and 200m finals at the 2015 Gwangju Universiade, will hope to improve on his fifth-place finish in the final of the 200m at the previous Commonwealth games.

 

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) president Gideon Sam says he’s excited by the team heading to Australia, and hopes the combination of youth and experience will bring the country success at the Games.

 

"As SASCOC we're very excited to deliver this team for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games," he said via a press statement. "Many hours of planning have gone into preparing this team.

 

“Two years out from the Tokyo Olympics, these Games are a great platform to see where our sportsmen and women, both established and developing, are on the world stage.

 

"You will see that it's a great blend of experience and raw talent and I'm confident we'll once again be right up there with the cream of Commonwealth countries and looking to improve on our seventh place on the medals table in Glasgow four years ago.”