Let the Games Begin


Pull up a chair, check the batteries in the remote and stock up on snacks, because it’s once again time for the Commonwealth Games. Check out our quick guide on who to look out for in South African colours in the track and field events. – BY SEAN FALCONER

The first two weeks of October will see the 19th Commonwealth Games taking place in New Delhi, India, and South Africa will once again have a strong team of athletes in action across the 17 sporting codes being contested by 71 Commonwealth nations and territories. The opening ceremony is on Sunday 3 October, with the closing ceremony to follow on the 14th. Track and field fans should diarise the dates from 6 to 12 October for some quality time in front of the television, with the 25km walk on 9 October and the marathon to follow on the 14th – although there won’t be any South Africans in the latter two races.

That is because the team selected for these Games has been whittled down by SASCOC according to a strict selection criteria of only those athletes or teams ranked in the top four in the Commonwealth, so as to maximise the chances of our athletes or teams medalling. However, this policy has met with widespread unhappiness, especially amongst track and field athletes as well as fans of athletics.

In July an initial team of 115 athletes across the various sporting codes was announced, with athletics still to come in the second announcement in August, but when the additional 32 names were announced, most athletes and fans were shocked to hear that only 11 track and field athletes had been selected, despite 29 athletes having met the strict qualifying standards, which were even stricter than most other country’s qualifying standards.

Many of the athletes who had worked hard to qualify were unaware of this and thus had built their seasons around the Delhi games. Some had travelled overseas at their own expense in search of stronger competition to help them attain the qualifying marks, while others had turned down lucrative invites to meets and races so they could concentrate on qualifying. The sad result was more negative publicity for track and field and more disillusionment amongst the athletes in what has been a troubled time for the sport.

Nevertheless, South African fans will all be firmly behind the 11 athletes who will be in action – check out their mini-biographies here as well as the event schedule and TV listing to see who to look out for.

Simon Magakwe (24)
Personal best: 20.23s (2010)
Career highlights:
3rd at African Championships 2010 (100m and 200m)
1st at African Championships (4x100m relay)
Fast fact: Arrived at the 2009 South African Champs with borrowed three-year-old spikes and his kit in a plastic bag, but went on to become double national champion over 100m and 200m.

LJ Van Zyl (25)
Personal best: 47.94s (2009)
Career highlights:
2nd at World Athletics Final 2006, 2009, and 3rd in 2005
1st at World Junior Championships 2002, and 4th in 2004
1st at Commonwealth Games 2006
1st at African Championships 2006, 2008, 2010
2nd at World Cup 2006
1st at All-Africa Games 2007
Fast fact: His first names are Louis Jacobus, but he prefers being called LJ.

Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (30)
Personal best: 1:42:86 (2009)
Career highlights:
2nd at Olympic Games 2004
1st at World Championships 2009, and 3rd in 2003
1st at World Indoor Championships 2004, and 2nd in 2006, 2008
2nd at World Indoor Championships 2006
1st at Commonwealth Games 2002
1st at World Athletics Final 2006, 2nd in 2007, and 3rd in 2009
3rd at World Cup 2006
2nd at African Championships 2000, and 3rd in 2002
2nd at All-Africa Games 2003
Fast fact: Became the first black South African to be ranked number one in the world for his event.
* At the time of going to print, it was said that Mbulaeni might withdraw because of a leg injury.

Caster Semenya (19)
Personal best: 1:55:45 (2009)
Career highlights:
1st at World Championships 2009
1st at Commonwealth Junior Games 2008
1st at African Junior Championships 2009 (800m and 15 000m)
Fast fact: Only began running as fitness training for soccer, but soon made running her priority.
* Caster was struggling with a back injury and at the time of going to print it was not determined whether she would compete.

Khotso Mokoena (25)
Personal best: 8.50m (2009)
Career highlights:
2nd at Olympic Games 2008
2nd at World Championships 2009
1st at World Indoor Championships 2008, and 2nd in 2010
2nd at World Junior Championships 2004
3rd at World Athletics Final
2007, 2009
1st at African Championships 2010, and 2nd in 2006
3rd at All-Africa Games 2003, 2007
3rd at Afro-Asian Games 2003
Fast fact: Has also won numerous medals for triple jump, including silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Tumelo Thagane (26)
Personal best: 17.09m (2009)
Career highlights:
3rd at African Championships 2010
Fast fact: Won the national Student Champs title in 2010 despite being in the middle of exams and only competing to earn some points for his Potch University team.

Cheyne Rahme (19)
Personal best: 5:50m (2010)
Career highlights:
1st at African Junior Championships 2009
Fast fact: His father, Damon, is a former SA national champion in the decathlon.

Sunette Viljoen (27)
Personal best: 66.38m (2010)
Career highlights:
1st at Commonwealth Games 2006
3rd at All-Africa Games 2003, 2007
1st at African Championships 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2nd in 2006
1st at Afro-Asian Games 2008
Fast fact: Also represented South Africa in women’s cricket from 2000 to 2002, playing one test and
17 one-day internationals.

Justine Robbeson (25)
Personal best: 63.49m (2008)
Career highlights:
1st at World Junior Championships (heptathlon)
2nd at World Youth Championships 2001
3rd at World Cup 2006
1st at All Africa Games 2007, and 2nd in 2003 (heptathlon)
1st at African Championships 2006, and 2nd in 2010
Fast fact: Previously competed in the heptathlon, but decided to focus on her strongest event.

Elizna Naud? (32)
Personal best: 64.87m (2007)
Career highlights:
1st at Commonwealth Games 2006
1st at All-Africa Games 2003, 2007, and 3rd in 1999
1st at African Championships 1998, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 3rd in 2002
Fast fact: Is a teacher at Vaalpark Primary School in Sasolburg.

Chris Harmse (37)
Personal best: 80.63m (2005)
Career highlights:
3rd at Commonwealth Games 1998, 2006
1st at All-Africa Games 1999, 2003, 2007
1st at African Championships 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2nd in 2010
1st at Afro Asian Games 2003
Fast fact: Has broken the African record seven times and won the SA Championship title a record 15 consecutive times.

Catch all the action
At the time of going to print the exact programme for track and field athletics was not yet available. Similarly, the various broadcast channels had not yet finalised their scheduling, but we can give you the dates on which track and field takes place as well as preliminary details of the TV viewing guide so that you can plan your armchair time.

Date Event Time In India Time In Sa
Wed 6 October Track & Field 17:30-20:40 14:00-17:10
Thurs 7 October Track & Field 10:00-12:15 06:30-08:45
 Track & Field 17:30-20:15 14:00-16:45
Fri 8 October Track & Field 10:00-12:30 06:30-09:00
 Track & Field 17:30-20:25 14:00-16:55
Sat 9 October Track & Field 10:00-12:15 06:30-08:45
 Track & Field 17:30-20:20 14:00-16:50
 20km Walk 06:30-9:30 03:00-06:00
Sun 10 October Track & Field 17:30-20:25 14:00-16:55
Mon 11 October Track & Field 17:30-20:25 14:00-16:55
Tues 12 October Track & Field 17:30-20:40 14:00-17:10
Wed 13 October Track & Field 17:30-20:20 14:00-16:50
Thurs 14 October Marathon 06:30-09:30 03:00-06:00

Discipline Events
Track 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3000m Steeplechase, 5000m, 10 000m, 110m H (men), 100m H (women), 400m H, 4x100m Relay, 4x400m Relay
Throws Shot Put, Discus Throw, Hammer Throw, Javelin Throw
Jumps Long Jump, High Jump, Triple Jump, Pole Vault
Combined Decathlon (men), Heptathlon (women)
Road Marathon, 20km Walk

DSTV: SuperSport 5, 6, 7 and SuperSport HD 1 will be carrying live action.
SABC2 will be carrying live action as well as late night highlights packages as follows:

Sun 3 October 15:00-18:30  Opening Ceremony 22:00-01:30  Opening Ceremony
Mon 4 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00 
Tues 5 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00 
Wed 6 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00 
Thurs 7 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00 
Fri 8 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00 
Sat 9 October 12:30-18:00  22:30-00:30 
Sun 10 October 12:30-18:00  22:00-00:00  
Mon 11 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00  
Tues 12 October 12:50-18:00  22:00-00:00 
Wed 13 October 12:50-17:30  22:00-00:00 
Thurs 14 October 04:30-06:00 Marathon  
 08:00-10:00 Marathon (delayed) 22:00-00:30 Closing Ceremony
 12:50-18:00 Closing Ceremony  
Fri 15 October   22:00-23:30 

Since our return to the Commonwealth Games, South Africa has never finished lower than 12th on the medals table. Our first Games after isolation were in Victoria, British Colombia, where we won 11 medals to place 12th. Since then we have been represented in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1998), Manchester (2002) and Melbourne (2006). In Melbourne we were fifth on the medals table, winning a total of 38 medals (12 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze). South Africa’s gold medals came from swimming (five), track and field (five) and one each from boxing and shooting.