South Africa romped to their most successful Olympic Games since its return to the international sporting fold in 1991/1992. We won six medals and finished 24th of the nations that participated in London. The country also ended top of the log in Africa and has had its best gold medal haul since it won four in 1912.
The most medals ever won at an Olympic Games by South Africa was ten in 1920 and in 1952, followed by six in 1912 and 2004. On two occasions the country
claimed three gold medals: in 1920 and 1996.
This year Cameron van der Burgh, Chad le Clos and the rowing team of James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu won gold. Van der Burgh and Caster Semenya added two silver medals and Bridgitte Hartley bronze in the K 1-500 metre event.
Semenya looked out of sorts at one stage during the 800m final, but clawed her way back with her famous kick from 250m out, but it was not enough to catch reigning world champion Mariya Savinova.
“The race was very fast,” said Semenya. ‘It doesn’t matter if you are at the back or the front. It matters how you finish the race. The body was not really on fire today, and I had to fight to the end. I’m already thinking about Rio,” she added in an interview with the Sunday Times.
For javelin thrower, Sunette Viljoen, who finished fourth, and Barry Stander, who fought valiantly but slipped to fifth in the mountain bike discipline, it was heartbreak hill at the games.
Stander is only 24 years of age and might be aim for gold at Rio de Janeiro in four years from now.
From a South African point of view, the Rainbow Nation should feel upbeat about their performance. Although the were hopes for twelve medals in London, most columnists and Olympians regarded it as an unrealistic goal. Most claimed that five or six would have been more realistic.
Of those athletes who missed out, only Stander, Viljoen and possibly LJ van Zyl and Khotso Mokoena could be disappointed that they did not finish on the podium.
Viljoen was the leading women’s javelin thrower in 2012 prior to the Games; Stander has been considered one of the best mountain bikers in the world for some time; Mokoena has the pedigree but struggled since the World Championships in 2011; and Van Zyl battled in 2012 to recapture the form that saw him claim bronze at the World Championship in 2011 with a troublesome knee contributing to his problems.
From a global perspective, the Olympic Games in London were dominated by Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, David Rudisha and Allyson Felix.
Phelps won six medals including four gold to increase his Olympic tally to an unprecedented 22 of which eighteen are gold. He retired after the London Games in London with his place in the history of Olympic swimming secured and is considered the greatest Olympian of all time.
Bolt became the first Olympian to successfully defend his 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay crown. He anchored Jamaica’s victory in the blistering men’s 4x100 relay with a world record time of 36.84.
"It's always a beautiful feeling to end off like this. We did it last year in the world championships - for me it's a wonderful feeling," Bolt told Reuters.
The United States team won silver in 37.04 to equal the old record.
Bolt has hinted that he might not return to defend his 100m and 200m crowns at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but that he is contemplating a switch to the long jump.
Whatever he decides, his place in history is also assured.
Some critics, like Carl Lewis, might argue he is not a legend yet, but he has surely gripped the imagination and the headlights and has made Olympic sprints incredibly and globally popular amongst facebook and twitter fans.
Rudisha smashed the world record in the 800m final by winning in 1.40.91, arguably one of the finest middle-distance races in Olympic history.
Lord Sebastian Coe, certainly one of Britain’s greatest-ever middle-distance champions, lauded Rudisha’s performance as one of the greatest Olympic runs ever, as the 23-year old Kenyan led from start to finish and simply demolished the field.
Mohamed Farah, a Somali-born British athlete, became the seventh-only athlete to complete the double by winning the gold medal in both the 5000m and 10 000m for men.
Felix, often considered a bridesmaid in the women’s sprinting events, won three gold medals for the US in the 200m individual sprints, and two in relays, after missing out on the top-podium spot in the 200m at two previous Olympic Games.
Obviously, many fans of the American Ryan Lochte would bemoan the fact that he is not seen as a member of the elite top five swimmers. He has won eleven medals at three Olympic Games now, after finishing on the podium five times in London., Not a bad for a man who has lived in Phelps’ shadow for eight years.
The medals table
The medals table was dominated by the United States on 104, including 46 gold.
China finished second on 87, with 38 gold. Hosts, Britain, finished with 65 medals, including 29 gold. Russia ended in fourth spot on 82, with 24 gold.
South Africa was placed 24th with six medals, of which three were top podium places. South Africa was also Africa’s best on the Olympic medal’s table, one position above Ethiopia.