Sascoc president puts his career on the line in vouching for Team SA’s success at Rio Olympics
The Olympic Games, which start on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be a make-or-break event for the president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), Gideon Sam.
His future depends on how Team SA performs. He himself has said he will be “finished” if the team underachieves.
This was underscored by Sam himself in 2012, when he acknowledged that he would not survive another failure after South Africa’s athletes did not reach their medal target in the London Games.
His current tenure ends in November and Team SA’s participation in Rio will sway the votes one way or the other.
Sam, who has been president of Sascoc since November 2008, has put his neck on the block by demanding 10 medals from the Games’ participants. He said he was confident of meeting this target – and even surpassing it.
“Failure to achieve this will be a massive blow,” Sam admitted on Thursday.
“With the [Sascoc] elections in November, it will all depend on what happens in Rio. We have seen people throw stones at us already. They may say to the council: ‘You have done your best but you are [finished]’.”
For the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Sascoc had set a target of 12 medals.
But the team came back with half that tally – three gold, two silver and one bronze.
At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Team SA scooped five medals, followed by another five at the 2000 Sydney Games
. The medal tally improved marginally to six in 2004 in Athens, but fell well below expectation when the team brought home only one medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Sam said since the London Games, they had invested in the athletes whom they believed could bring medals from Rio.
He said he was disappointed that some of those athletes had failed to qualify.
His biggest letdown was the country’s boxers failing to make the cut.
He added that he was saddened by the fact that long jumper Zarck Visser, in particular, could not make the team.
“We have invested in him. Normally we put our hearts out there, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Sometimes injuries play their part as well.”
Sam said he regarded the 2016 team as the best ever. “From where we come from, this is by far the best team in terms of diversity and the number of federations that made it.
“We take a lot of flak about our criteria, but when it works, it works like this. Whoever thought we would have [a] badminton [player] in the team?”
Sam is also currently serving as vice-president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and is coordinating planning for the 2022 Commonwealth Games that will be hosted in Durban.