Blitzboks and swimmers rocket South Africa up Commonwealth Games standings

South Africa’s Commonwealth Games team played a blinder on the weekend, rocketing up the medals table thanks to gold medals from swimmers Tatjana Schoenmaker, Lara van Niekerk, and Pieter Coetze, and the Blitzboks winning their Rugby Sevens final too.

The four gold medals in Birmingham put South Africa in fourth place on the standings, behind Australia, England, and New Zealand, with Chad le Clos’s silver medal and Kaylene Corbett’s bronze in the pool adding to the tally.

The men’s Sevens team beat Fiji 31-7 in the final on Sunday, having made their way past Australia in the semifinals earlier in the day. Against Fiji, the Blitzboks ran in five tries, two of those to Muller du Plessis, as they added to the Games gold they won in 2014.

In the pool, traditionally a strong area for South Africa, the team racked up five medals, three of them gold. Schoenmaker, the Olympic champion and world record holder in the 200m breaststroke, won that distance on Sunday, with Corbett finishing third alongside her.

Earlier in the weekend, Van Niekerk won gold in the 50m breaststroke, adding to the bronze she won over that distance at the World Championships a month ago, while Coetze won gold in the men’s 100m backstroke.

Le Clos, meanwhile brought his Commonwealth Games medal tally to 18 overall, tying for the most medals won at the event. On Tuesday, he could become the Games’ most decorated athlete if he medals in the 100m butterfly final.

It’s been a long road back to the podium for former Olympic champion Le Clos, who did not medal at the Olympics in Tokyo last year and recently told Newszetu that he had endured one of the toughest years of his life thanks to a battle with his mental health.

He told the media after his silver race that he was unsatisfied with his second place: “It feels bittersweet, I’m proud to have the [joint] most medals in Commonwealth Games history.

“I can’t exactly complain, I would’ve taken for sure a medal or two a couple of months [ago].

“But I’m pretty sad to not get the gold, I felt like I was destined to win tonight, I felt good.

“I felt nervous throughout the day, but before the race, I was feeling pretty confident. I thought it was in the bag, after the 100, I felt really good, but I guess the piano dropped on my back with 25m to go.”

For the rest of Africa, Nigeria sat in 9th place on the medals table after the weekend, having picked up two gold medals and a bronze thanks to their weightlifters. Ratiafu Lawal won the women’s 59kg, while Adijat Olarinoye bagged the women’s 55kg gold. Edidiong Umoafia secured bronze in the men’s 67kg category.

The only other African nation to bag gold so far is Uganda, thanks to men’s marathon winner Victor Kiplangat. He finished in a time of 2:10:55, while Kenya’s Michael Githae claimed the bronze.

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