first of her two Olympic silvers , being defeated by Russia ’ s Yelena Yelesina , but to this day there are still questions about the Russian ’ s gold , following the plethora of Russian athletes who were banned for doping after these Games . ( I had quite a few interactions with Hestrie a few years ago , and she asked me if there was any chance her silvers – she added another one in 2004 – would change to Gold .)
the history of the modern Games . Khotso ’ s 8.36m jump for silver equalled the gold medal-winning performance of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics . Credit where credit is due , Khotso took his chance and earned his medal , and the team loved mentioning it at every opportunity . I ate my humble pie ... Quite happily , mind you .
But for me , Sydney will always bring back memories of the ‘ Discus Doctor ’ and his meticulous preparation . Frantz Kruger went on ‘ Ozzie time ’ a month before the Games ... He would sleep during the day , train in the morning and evening , and stay awake through the night , so he was effectively on Sydney time already and felt no jetlag effects when Team SA landed ‘ down under .’ It showed as he won bronze in one of the deepest fields ever assembled in the discus . He was briefly in the silver medal position when he threw 68.19m in the third round , and it was only in the final round that Germany ’ s Lars Riedel was able to hit 68.50m to relegate him to bronze .
2004 … Bullet Mbuli
Mbulaeni Mulaudzi emulated the feat of Hezekiel Sepeng by winning silver in the men ’ s 800m final . In some regards it was the end of an era , with Zeekie finishing sixth and the World Recordholder , Wilson Kipketer of Denmark being a shadow of his former self after a bout of malaria , but still fighting to take third place . However , it was the manner in which Mbuli fought that stuck with me . Russia ’ s Yuri Borzakowski had to dip on the line to hold off Mbuli , who also had to dip to keep Kipketer at bay ... They finished 1:44.45 to 1:44.61 to 1:44.65 , in one of the closest 800m finishes I ’ ve ever witnessed . It was so close to Mbuli creating history , but he would go on to win gold in the 2009 World Championships .
2008 … Bolt , Bolt , Bolt
The 2008 Games in Beijing were the first that I covered for both Radio 2000 and SAFM , and I had to do hourly reports as well as live commentary on some races . Radio 2000 had a group of analysts , and they were not best pleased with me for saying before the Games that Team SA would be lucky if we came back with a medal . In fact , I had been castigated before the Games for saying it would take a miracle for the SA team to come back with a medal , as the world rankings showed that not a single South African was within medal reach , and we had numerous debates on air about it .
As the Games progressed , it seemed I would be proven correct , and I boldly said , “ I will eat humble pie if we come back with a medal .” Well , the team loved making me eat that humble pie when Khotso Mokoena claimed the silver medal in the long jump , but it must be pointed out that it was weakest ever long jump competition in
However , Beijing was all about Jamaica ’ s Usain Bolt . It has to go down as one of the biggest moments in my commentary career to call his 100m race , when 30m out Bolt was beating his chest and celebrating . The goosebumps still rise when I think of that moment . I ran out of words to say about just how incredible that performance was . He destroyed that 100m field , setting a new World Record of 9.69 seconds in spite of slowing down in the last stretch to celebrate , and I remember saying , “ He ’ s not even trying !” But what followed in the 200m was even more juicy .
Leading up to the 200m final , the speculation was all about whether Bolt would break the incredible 19.32-second World Record of the great Michael Johnson ( who almost arrogantly predicted that his record would stand ). But the 200m was Bolt ’ s best event , and after his 9.69 in the 100m , there was no way MJ ’ s record was going to stand . I still remember in my commentary , as we went through the lane draw and the camera focused on Bolt , I said ( boldly ), “ It is not a matter of if Bolt will break the record , but by how much .” It was close – I almost had to eat humble pie again – but Bolt clocked 19.30 , finishing 2 / 100th faster than MJ , who was in the stadium , and whose face was just a picture of amazement . ( A year later , Bolt ran 19.19 , which still stands as the World Record ).
2012 … London Calling
This was my second Olympic Games as a broadcaster , and this time I had the privilege of actually being in the host city . London is really everything they say , a city that is home to every nation on the earth , with a pub on every street corner and the most efficient running subway . We work very , very long hours … going on air at 5am London time and only getting back to the hotel around midnight each day was quite the challenge , but it was an experience of a lifetime .
My schedule was so tight that I could only sneak 20 minutes on the treadmill each day in between crossings in the morning . There were some evenings where we did finish earlier , and then a ‘ must ’ on the menu was English curry , or bangers and mash . Hey , when in Rome … What I particularly loved was that virtually every pub we went to ( and we tried hard to find time for this ) had their own brand of beer . I love my craft beer , so that was special .
But London was special for more reasons . While it was not athletics , I was also able to commentate live on Chad Le Clos winning the 200m butterfly gold
Images : All Over Press , Bob Denaro / Wikimedia Commons , Jimmy Harris / Wikimedia Commons , Paul Rowlett / Wikimedia Commons , Roger Sedres / ImageSA & courtesy Runnerprogram . com
18 ISSUE 143 JULY 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za