by Fanie Heyns

Will South Africa light its own flame?

Will it be a repeat of the Beijing shame?

London Olympics 2012
londonolympicslogo.jpg

The Olympic torch arrived in London by Royal helicopter in the past week to spend the night in one of the city’s most secure locations, the London Tower. The question is, who will carry South Africa’s Olympic flame when the Games start on Friday? Will it be a repeat of the Beijing shame, with only one South African making a podium appearance or will the South Africans fulfill Gideon Sam's prophecy of winning twelve medals at the 2012 Games? 

There are nine potential finalists in the swimming event. There are four for Chad le Clos in the 200m and 400m medley as well as the 100m and 200m butterfly. One for Cameron van der Burgh in the 100m breaststroke, Wendy Trott in the 800m freestyle, Graeme Moore in the 100m freestyle and Katheryn Meaklim in the 400m medley and the 4x100m medley relay team.

The question is who of them will fulfill this potential?
Van der Burgh is ranked fifth in the world in the 100m breaststroke, but he has come on in leaps and bounds and is a realistic medal contender. Some expect him to win gold, but let us be realistic and remember who he is up against.
Kosuke Kitajima of Japan won gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke in Athens and Beijing. If Van der Burgh is dreaming of gold, he will have to beat this legend.
Ryk Neethling, a former Olympic gold medallist, believes that South Africa can even finish on the podium in the relay, if Charl Crous completes his leg in less than 53.5 seconds. It would be an enormous challenge, though, as Japan and the United States are the strong favourites to win the gold and silver in these disciplines.
Le Clos has an enormous challenge if he wants to win a medal in the 200m butterfly, as he will challenge the legendary Michael Phelps. 
Amongst the athletes, there are some six medal prospects.
The 2009 World Champion, Caster Semenya, is surely a contender in the 800m but she has been inconsistent this year and only a shadow of the runner who won silver at the World Championships in 2011.
LJ van Zyl was a bronze medallist in the 400m hurdles at the World Championships in 2011, but a knee injury hampered him in 2012.
Cornell Fredericks has an outside chance of finishing amongst the medals in the 400m hurdles.
The Road to 2012 author,  Mark Etheridge mentions the sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley as a possible medal winner. She is a previous World Cup winner and achieved a world best time in the London test event.
The cross-county mountain biker Burry Stander, fifteenth in Beijing, is competitive on the world stage and is a two-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic and could win a medal in London. 
Swimmer Ryan Lochte, the world record holder in the 200m individual medley and the 400m individual medley will battle for the limelight with his compatriot Phelps, in what could be one of the greatest highlights at the Games.
Phelps has won 16 Olympic medals, of which 14 is gold. Lochte has won six Olympic medals.
Neethling has been on record saying that Lochte will prevent Phelps from winning more than five medals at the London Olympics. 
Then there is the battle between the sprint super stars Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt. Blake upstaged Bolt at the Jamaican Olympic trials by winning both the 100 and 200 metres. Blake has a best time in the 200 metres of 19.26 seconds, just marginally behind Bolt’s Olympic record of 19.19 seconds and is also the current world champion in the 100 metres.
Bolt has already been described by former Namibian Olympic silver medallist, Frankie Fredericks as the best sprinter of all time, but Blake might prove that Bolt is just a mere mortal.
A third great duel that could add spark to the London Olympics, could be the one between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the tennis court. Federer was named the greatest tennis player of all time in a recent poll by Tennis Channel. 
Defending Olympic champion, Rafael Nadal, finished sixth on that poll and  unfortunately decided to pull out of the Olympics due to persisting knee problems.
Djokovic, however was Federer’s nemesis quite a few times the past 18 months, beating him at the US Open in 2011 and recently at the French Open.
But Federer scored a magnificent victory in the semi-finals of Wimbledon against the Serbian giant and went on to win his seventh title on the hallowed green turf of the All England Club.
Djokovic would love to gain revenge by winning Olympic gold at the same venue. The only accolade missing from Federer’s impressive list of titles, which include a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, is an Olympic gold in the singles.
Federer and Djokovic, are both all-time greats. 
In 2011 Djokovic won three Grand Slam-titles and finished the year with an impressive 70/6 win-loss record. He was the number one ranked player in the world for a year before overtaken by Federer about two weeks ago after Federer’s Wimbledon title.
Can Djokovic add to his magnificent record by winning gold in London?
Time will tell. At the moment, Federer is leading their career-meetings by 15 to 12.
Djokovic would obviously hope that the rain don’t force them indoors at Wimbledon, because Federer is a maestro under a roof.
Fanie Heyns
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